Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2 / Cello Sonata (78)
Emanuel Ax, piano
Yo Yo Ma, cello
Boston Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Bernard Haitink
Sony SK 63229
Every pianist wants his shot at this Everest of piano concertos. Emanuel Ax should not be faulted for succumbing to the temptation. And (if you will forgive me) Ax has the chops. He claims to have played the Brahms second 150 times, and on the evidence of this recording, he understands it about as well as any living pianist. With the advantage of Haitink's accompaniment, we have a performance any Brahmsian can live with. Is it a first choice? I would not want to give up Gilels (with either Reiner or Jochum), or Rubinstein/Ormandy, or Serkin/Szell. The recording, while avoiding the aggressiveness of most digital, seems a trifle muffled, something like listening to a digital recording with your high filter on (a desperation measure I've resorted to more than once). That last ounce of crispness and clarity will decide against this version for many consumers who didn't grow up with analogue.
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