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GRIEG: Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16. SCHUMANN: Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54.
Leif Ove Andsnes, pianist; Berlin Philharmonic Orch/Mariss Jansons, cond.
EMI CLASSICS 57762 (F) (DDD) TT: 59:03
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MAHLER: Symphony No. 6 in A minor "Tragic"
London Symphony Orch/Mariss Jansons, cond.
LSO LIVE LSOOO38 (B) (DDD) TT: 81:52
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The final issue of Schwann/Opus (2001) listed more than four dozen recordings of the Grieg concerto, almost an equal number of the Schumann, with about a dozen coupling them together. Since that time there have been many new entries—listed on ArkivMusic you now will find over ninety recording of the former, more than a hundred of the latter. These range from "historic" recordings of the Grieg (including Ignaz Friedman's pooly-played 1926 recording, and one with Percy Grainger dating from 1945 in Hollywood Bowl with Stokowski conducting in which the pianist gets worse technically as the performance progresses). Perhaps the most notable "historic" recording of the Schumann is the one by 78-year old Emil von Sauer recorded live in 1940 with Mengelberg and the Concertgebouw in which his noble, grandiose intentions are betrayed by his fingers.

My favorte recording of both concertos for decades has been the 1960 Leon Fleisher/ Szell/Cleveland Orchestra Epic version, recently reissued in a super remastering from open-reel tape and sounding better than ever (see REVIEW). I also treasure Tahra's issue of the Grieg (Gilels) and Schumann (Arrau) with Jochum and the Concertgebouw, unfortunately now deleted (see REVIEW). Those are now strongly challenged by this magnificent new version with Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes and the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Mariss Jansons. Both soloist and conductor display extraordinary sensitivity to both scores, with imaginative solo phrases echoed by the orchestra. Andsnes is in top form making a brilliant event indeed of the Grieg's first-movement cadenza, recorded in sessions in December 2002 in Philharmonie Hall. The Schumann is from live performances in that hall the same month. John Fraser produced both recordings with Arne Akselberg as balance engineer. The sound picture is broad and spacious, with solid piano sound and a rich-sounding Berlin Philharmonic. If you're interested in these two concertos you surely should investigate this fine new release.

Mariss Jansons has started a Mahler symphony cycle with the Oslo Philharmonic on Simax with release of symphonies 1 and 9 which I've not heard. But I have heard a magnificent Mahler Third live with the Pittsburgh Symphony, and a stunning Mahler Seventh—a live performance with the Royal Concertgebouw which augurs well for his upcoming musical directorship of that orchestra which has such a strong Mahler tradition. This live LSO performance of Symphony No. 6 was recorded during two live performances in London's Barbican Hall in November 2002, which received adulatory press comments largely deserved judging from what is heard on this recording. Jansons elects to perform the Andante before the Scherzo, rather unusual in today's performances and recordings. In spite of its manifold pluses, this performance simply has too much quality competition to be a serious contender for collectors. A major factor is the sound. In spite of efforts of producer James Mallinson and engineer Tony Faulkner, what is heard on this recording is rather dry and harsh; the luxurious string sonorities to be heard in many competing versions (including Thomas, Bernstein, Haitink and Karajan) simply aren't to be heard—nor do the three hammer blows in the finale have sufficient impact. We can hear, though, many exclamations from Jansons. This is issued on two CDs for the price of one with a total playing time of 81:52. I'd wait until (and if) Jansons records it with the Concertgebouw.

R.E.B. (Octoer 2003)