This is the beginning of an irregular and serendipitous series, although it may be said to have been initiated on July 11 with my John McCabe posting.
I hope I remain as keen as ever to explore music that is unfamiliar to me, but I am certainly going through a retrospective phase, looking back a few decades or further to revisit/re-discover certain recordings.
Starting then with one of my desert-island Piano Concertos and a favourite pianist, here is a magnificent account of Brahms’s D-minor. Originally issued on an Enigma LP (its sleeve illustrated) in 1978 I listened on an ASV compact disc (CD QS 6083) from 1992 in, thankfully, a good transfer (none of your over-processed, ruined, analogue here). But the annotation is hopeless, sloppy, for only producer John Boyden gets a credit. Investigation confirms Tony Faulkner as the engineer of the well-balanced and natural/lucid sound and that the venue is Manchester’s Free Trade Hall.
As to the performance, it is wholly compelling, distinguished by John Lill’s searching musicianship and music-serving technical command. The outer movements are notable for the integrity afforded Brahms’s ideas and structure, while the slow movement is especially poignant, so tender and confiding, spellbinding.
Such riches are not down to Lill alone, for he has in James Loughran the perfect partner, selfless and accommodating, drawing colourful and detailed playing from the Hallé that is at-one with Lill’s powerful and probing, deeply considered, conception.
I am so pleased to have returned to this timeless version of a masterpiece.
Of course there are other outstanding recordings of Brahms PC1 – such as, but not exclusively, Ashkenazy/Haitink, Fleisher/Szell, Gilels/Jochum. Lill & Loughran join this shortlisted company.
What next, I wonder!