is the greatest audience in the world.”
As television viewers of a certain age will recall, that’s how Jackie Gleason used to close his television show. The greatest audience in the world these days? The readers of this happy Corner. The series of events that (most recently, at least) confirms it?
1. I put up a posting, asking Jay Nordlinger to recommend worthy performances of Brahms’s exquisite work for piano, Intermezzo Opus 118, No. 2.
2. Off “the top of my head,” as he put it, Jay listed nine pianists, something of a virtuoso performance in itself, but, Jay being Jay, not terribly surprising.
3. What was surprising? That on a narrow question pertaining to classical music, I received no fewer than eighteen emails. Each was from a reader who knew what he was talking about. A sampling:
From one reader—and note that anyone who wants to hear the piece in question can simply click on one of these links:
Jay’s list is an impressive one – the Backhaus recording is justly famous.
You can hear a snatch here (play Disc 1 Track 6)
But for this repertoire, I’ll stand by the lesser known Stephen Bishop-Kovacevich. Here’s a place where you can hear a snatch of him (play Disc 1 Track 12)
Hope this helps & enjoy it. A dedicated Corner reader
From another reader:
I notice Mr. Nordlinger gave you a list rather than a ranking. If you want one-stop Brahms shopping (the intermezzo you mentioned plus many of his other great shorter pieces, esp. Op 119 Nos. 1 and 3), try this CD from Radu Lupu:
From still another reader:
Try Radu Lupu, Stephen Bishop Kovacevich, Julius Katchen, Wilhelm Kempff, Artur Rubinstein, Sviatoslav Richter if you can find it, Emmanuel Ax, Ivo Pogorelich, in roughly that order. In other words, just about anyone but Cliburn. Some of Cliburn’s concerto records were very impressive, but his solo interpretations I’ve found quite bland. Gould could be very insightful, but some of his interpretations are just wild and the sound can be quite dry, and the dreadful vocalising along with himself is unspeakable.
And, from yet another reader, my favorite:
Actually, Peter, you would be quite surprised at the work that Brahms did later
in his life. He abandoned the large forms of the sonata, concerto, etc. and
mainly wrote small character pieces, such as the Intermezzos. As someone who
has played that piece, I would vouch for Kempff, Gieseking (also plays a good
Ravel concerto) and Rubinstein, but I am not a big Hess fan. If you look
through op. 116 – 119 you will find more high quality pieces like that. (op.117
no. 1, op. 118 no. 5 etc.). Keep defending free trade for me.
Piano Performance major at Arizona State
A pianist and a free trader. As I said, The Corner audience is the greatest audience in the world.