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Thread: Favourite Piano Concertos

  1. #1
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    Default Favourite Piano Concertos

    Here's my Top 20 list of keyboard concertos.

    I don't attach much importance to the exact ranks. They provide only a general indication of preference.

    I give the name of the pianist version I happen to have, or prefer. These are not arbitrary as I do have certain preferences, and in building up my lists I tried to listen and compare different versions. In most cases, I prefer the older (15-40 years) recordings rather than very modern ones.

    For Beethoven I generally like Gilels. For Chopin I think Rubinstein is best. For Mozart, I like Ashkenazy and Barenboim. The Ashkenazy recordings below are very modern, and in my view brilliant.

    Where generally louder pieces are involved, I like Van Cliburn, as he is well-controlled and in my view fautless (I'm a big admirer of Van Cliburn). For such pieces I also like Martha Argerich and Horowitz, both very powerful, but for these particular concertos below I selected Van Cliburn (less background noise).

    In the case of Schumann, Richter is very highly regarded, but I happen to like the Murray Perahia version which is partnered with the Grieg piano concerto.

    1 Beethoven No 5 (Gilels)
    2 Schumann A Min (Perahia)
    3 Rachmaninoff No 2 (Van Cliburn)
    4 Mozart No 21 (Ashkenazy)
    5 Brahms No 2 (Richter)
    6 Beethoven No 4 (Gilels)
    7 Grieg A Min (Perahia)
    8 Mozart No 20 (Ashkenazy)
    9 Beethoven No 1 (Richter)
    10 Mozart No 24 (Ashkenazy)
    11 Brahms No 1 (Richter)
    12 Chopin No 1 (Emanuel Ax)
    13 Tchaikovsky No 1 (Van Cliburn)
    14 Chopin No 2 (Rubinstein)
    15 Liszt No 1 (Van Cliburn)
    16 Brahms No 1 (Richter)
    17 Prokofiev No 3 (Argerich)
    18 Rachmaninoff Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini (Rubinstein)
    19 Bartok No 3 (Barenboim)
    20 Franck Symphonic Variations (Rubinstein)
    .............

    My 3 favourite movements of the whole lot are the second movements of Beethoven's No 1 and No 5, and Mozart's No 21.

    ...........


    Topaz
    Last edited by Topaz; Dec-07-2006 at 19:26.

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    Senior Member Hexameron's Avatar
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    1. Liszt - Totentanz
    2. Brahms - Piano Concerto No. 1
    3. Beethoven - Piano Concerto No. 5
    4. Beethoven - Piano Concerto No. 4
    5. Beethoven - Piano Concerto No. 3
    6. Beethoven - Piano Concerto No. 1
    7. Beethoven - Piano Concerto No. 2
    8. Brahms - Piano Concerto No. 2
    9. Chopin - Piano Concerto No. 2
    10. Chopin - Piano Concerto No. 1
    11. Liszt - Piano Concerto No. 2
    12. Henselt - Piano Concerto in F minor
    13. Rachmaninov - Piano Concerto No. 2
    14. Liszt - Piano Concerto No. 1
    15. Kullak - Piano Concerto in C minor
    16. Mozart - Piano Concerto No. 23
    17. Mendelssohn - Piano Concerto No. 1
    18. Schumann - Piano Concerto in A minor
    19. Mozart - Piano Concerto No. 20
    20. Dreyschock - Piano Concerto in D minor

    Some of these are world premiere recordings and so a choice of pianist is not possible. For Beethoven and Mozart I prefer Brendel, for Chopin I like Perahia, and for Liszt I chose Leslie Howard.

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    Assistant Administrator Daniel's Avatar
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    Hello all!

    Because I cannot make such lists with numeration or limitation in the amount, I will just name some not so well known piano concertos, which really belong to my favourite ones besides of the great and wellknown ones:

    Johann Nepomuk Hummel: Concertos generally, in particular Concerto in A minor Op. 85,
    Ignaz Moscheles: Concertos generally, in particular Concerto in G minor Op. 60,
    Wilhelm Stenhammar: Concerto No.1 in B flat minor,
    Kurt Atterberg: Concerto in B flat minor Op. 38,
    Einojuhani Rautavaara: Concerto No. 1, Op. 45,
    Saint-SaŽns: All 5 concertos,
    Joseph Joachim Raff: Concerto in C minor Op. 185,
    Vincent d'Indy: Symphonie sur un chant montagnard 'Cťvenole', Op. 25 in G major.

    So far!

    Kind Regards,
    Daniel

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    Senior Member Hexameron's Avatar
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    Daniel, I take it you're a fan of the Hyperion label's Romantic Piano Concerto series?

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    Here are a few of my favourites. I include harpsichord (which I love) -

    1. JS Bach - Harpsichord Concertos (Trevor Pinnock)
    2. Schumann Concerto in A Minor - Dinu Lipatti
    3. Grieg Concerto in A Minor - Dinu Lipatti
    4. Mozart - Concertos 20 and 21 - Friedrich Gulda
    5. Rachmaninov - Concerto No. 3 - Martha Argerich
    6. Mendelssohn Concertos - Various Soloists
    7. Chopin - 1st Concerto
    8. Rachmaninov - 2nd Concerto/Paganini Variations - Raphael Orozco

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    Assistant Administrator Daniel's Avatar
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    Exactely, Hexameron. I like the idea of recovering unknown works, which are worth to be played more often. But this should be only the first step. The second would be to integrate those works into concerts and daily perfomances.
    But from my list just Moscheles and Saint-SaŽns concertos would be available in Hyperion. They have such a huge catalogue yet, give it all a try.

    Regards,
    Daniel

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    In no particular order:

    Bartok No1
    Brahms No1
    Prokofiev No1
    Ravel (Left Hand)
    Dvorak
    Tchaikovsky No1
    Rachmaninov No3
    Poulenc
    Vaughan Williams
    Delius

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    Senior Member Kurkikohtaus's Avatar
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    You guys rule with the lists, man.

    Here is my (brief) list of all time favourites.

    Beethoven no. 3 in C minor.

    A childhood favourite, actually, one of the first classical pieces that I ever heard. I have heared it countless times, conducted it 3 times, and each time it seems brand new. In my mind the best exit from a cadenza ever (pp tympani) and that including Mendelssohn Violin Concerto.

    Mozart No. 21 in C major.

    Yes, the 2nd mvmt is very, very special... but it's the first mvmt that does it for me. Mozart at his best, where he simultaneously defines the high classical style but avoids all its stereotypes. I have a very interesting TAPE (yes, tape) with Paul Badura-Skoda playing it in Salzburg on Mozart's original Piano-Forte.

    Rachmaninov Paganini Variations.

    In my mind this piece outdoes any of his albeit very nice concertos by a country mile. Sheer inventiveness and sheer exhiliration for all performers. Never conducted it in performance, but have chopped away at it in a conducting masterclass way back when... tough one.

    --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

    Bass from Oboe, just wondering about your listing of Dvorak's Piano Concerto. In the Czech Republic, this is definitively considered to be his weakest concerto and perhaps even weakest orchestral piece, it receives very little play over here. I am programming it in 2007-08, in the same concert as the Violin Concerto, the point being to show the contrast.

    What is it that you like about it?

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    Senior Member Hexameron's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel View Post
    I like the idea of recovering unknown works, which are worth to be played more often. But this should be only the first step. The second would be to integrate those works into concerts and daily perfomances.
    I follow that philosophy too. In fact, for the longest time I used to buy CD's only from neglected piano composers because I realized how outstanding and underrated their works are. Alkan and Henselt, for example, are denied their rightful place in the Piano Composer Hall of Fame nowadays. It's astounding to hear the great works from composers like Rubinstein, Dreyschock, Moscheles, Kalkbrenner, Herz, Thalberg, Heller, Medtner, and even Glazunov. Sadly, these guys are mentioned only in the footnotes of music history, but their piano compositions are usually (not always) just as worthy of recordings and performances as are the stellar pieces from Chopin, Liszt, Schumann and Brahms.

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    Senior Member Kurkikohtaus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hexameron View Post
    It's astounding to hear the great works from composers like Rubinstein, Dreyschock, Moscheles, Kalkbrenner, Herz, Thalberg, Heller, Medtner, and even Glazunov. Sadly, these guys are mentioned only in the footnotes of music history, but their piano compositions are usually (not always) just as worthy of recordings and performances as are the stellar pieces from Chopin, Liszt, Schumann and Brahms.
    Says who?

    Although classical programming certainly IS partially driven by a market-expectation element, it is the performers themselves that rightfully decide which concertos are most deserving of their long years of study and toil. While I'm sure pieces by the composers you list are interesting and unique, performers throughout history have chosen to devote themselves to the present canon, and I believe that this choice is not based on the demands of the market but rather on the perceived artistic merit of the works in question as assigned by the performers themselves.

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    Interesting discussion emerging in the above two posts. I offer below some comments on this topic.

    I think that the “canon” of classical music – i.e. the list of material that constitutes the hard core of what is made available today on disc, live performance, radio – is a market-determined phenomenon. It is what it is because that is what the public want. It is NOT what it is because of any of the following (which are mere examples of some common arguments):

    1. a plot by the recording industry to get people to buy what they want us to buy;
    2. the result of choice by performers themselves in playing material only what they think is intrinsically good, for which they have trained;
    3. arbitrary choices by radio station executives who allegedly have a sinister (market-disttoring) preference for, or bias against, certain styles or periods of music;
    4. university musicology departments continuing to perpetuate safe-and-popular works in their teaching, or whimsically promoting some new "school" because of some fad.
    Clearly, arguments 1, 3 and 4 are wrong. People will not buy what they do not like, and University musicology departments have no market power. Argument 2 is a typical “tail-wagging-the-dog” sort of argument that basically focuses on just one small aspect of the supply demand balance. For example, while performers may think that certain composers' works are the best, and they may prefer to learn them, if the market does not agree those performers will go hungry. They will re-align their skills to ensure they meet market requirements, at least in the medium or longer term. It is the overall interplay of market forces that ultimately determines outcomes, not just the wishes of individual sub-elements in that market however knowledgeable they may be.

    Only if markets are imperfect do you get poor results. There is no reason to think that the classical music market is any different from other arts markets, or is significantly imperfect. This is because (i) it contains many competitive suppliers in terms of composers, orchestras, performers, recording companies, radio stations; (ii) there are a large number of buyers; (iii) information is widely available. These conditions should ensure a sensible result that reflects the overall market's preferences

    The “canon” of classical music - ill defined though it may be - is the best that can be achieved. If anything is missing or under-represented in some sense, there is a good reason for it: the market values the “missing” bits less than people are prepared to pay for it. Inter alia, it means that "old, traditional, established," material should not be stigmatized, and is not stigmatised, except possibly in the eyes of people who have preferences well outside the mainstream view. It also means that if certain composers’ works are not well known these days, their compositions are not as worthy of recordings and performances as other pieces. This is not to say their works are significantly less good in a purely musical sense. It means is that the other, more famous composers have an edge in quality and have produced a sufficient quantity of such material to satisfy the existing demand, thus making other composers’ works largely side-lined from a general perspective.



    Topaz
    Last edited by Topaz; Dec-09-2006 at 15:27.

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    Senior Member Hexameron's Avatar
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    Says who?
    Says Piers Lane, Jack Gibbons, Leslie Howard, Konstantin Scherbakov, Alexander Paley, and Marc-Andre Hamelin. These are just a few pianists who champion the obscure piano composers today. Additionally, many CD notes-writers like Jeremy Nicholas and Richard Davis, as well as reviewers at Gramophone, The Guardian, and Classic CD have voiced their opinions that such rarities from Alkan, Henselt, and Anton Rubinstein all deserve their chance back in the concert repertoire.

    While I'm sure pieces by the composers you list are interesting and unique, performers throughout history have chosen to devote themselves to the present canon, and I believe that this choice is not based on the demands of the market but rather on the perceived artistic merit of the works in question as assigned by the performers themselves.
    Now this I wholly disagree with. At least in the piano realm, pianists today are figuring out that a good deal of worthy piano compositions have not only been neglected, but they actually rival their famous counterparts in "artistic merit." Liszt's HR 2 and Chopin's 'Heroic' polonaise were the famous war-horses, and set a pattern for what pianists should tackle. The "present canon" would be quite boring, I think, if no one else decided to unearth other great works. When Benno Moiseiwitsch unleashed the furor of Liszt's transcription of the Tannhauser overture and Marc-Andre Hamelin (and Ronald Smith before him) revealed Alkan to the world, I could no longer trust that I was hearing the best of the best from Serkin, Arrau, Horowitz, Cziffra, Ashkenazy, Gilels, etc. Busoni thought Alkan one of the greatest piano composers alongside Beethoven and Schumann. Schumann called Henselt the "Chopin of the North." And then pop pianists like Horowitz and Arthur Rubinstein never recorded them. Who do we assume has the right judgment: Busoni and Schumann or Horowitz and Rubinstein?

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    Junior Member riverbank's Avatar
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    my 4 faves are

    Poulenc's Piano Concerto and Concerto for Two Pianos (and I am at a loss as to why his piano concerto isn't better known, the first movement in particular is sooo gorgeous.)
    Gershwin's Piano Concerto - different but great fun.
    and Rachmaninov's No 2 - justly famous - (No 3 is good also)

    Others worth a mention
    I like Bartok's No 2, not heard No 1
    Tchaikovsky No 1 is good
    Grieg's also
    Rodrigo's isn't bad either
    Beethoven's are pretty good.

    The only piano concertos I can remember that didn't do too much for me were pretty much all those by Prokofiev, despite the fact that I like some of his music a lot.

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    Senior Member Kurkikohtaus's Avatar
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    Hexameron, you chose a good word to describe the work of the pianists you list, in that they Champion the cause of the lesser played works. Topaz (Not that I want to put words in his mouth) would possibly explain to you that the reason they do this is that they are filling a necessary niche in the market. If these pianists concentrated solely on the canon, they probably would be just as obscure as the composers that they champion. At least now they have a certain role that they fill, worthy of mention in Gramophone and Classical CD (I mean that tongue in cheek, I read those too...)

    As for who was right, Busoni/Schumann or Horowitz/Rubenstein, I'm going to have to go with Topaz here and say quite simply the market is right, especially since it has had well over a hundred years to decide about these things.

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    What I'm saying is that markets generally produce the best solution. Sometimes the results can be harsh: "survival of the fittest" and all that. It means that second-best candidates, who may not be far behind the first-best in quality, can be trampled on completely. It all depends on whether the first-best produced a sufficient volume of output to meet market demand. If they did, the second best will be left behind in the history books. If not, then there will be a place for the second and possibly third-best etc. I stress that the second best may be only very slightly behind the first-best in quality.

    Some present-day individuals who are interested in pursuing every detail of a particular music genre may discover exceptional talent lying just beneath the surface. However, as Kurkikohtaus says, these are essentially niche markets but this in no way necessarily carries any strong adverse quality assessment. They will remain in the niche sector unless and until the overall market demand grows or tastes generally change. Their status can't be talked up merely on grounds of technical quality. For one reason or other, they just don't "cut" it with the buying public in comparison with the others. This may be the result of lack of education, but I doubt it as the established canon has been refined down the generations by people who took far more interest in classical music than does the present generation.



    Topaz

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