SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

BEETHOVEN: Concerto for Violin/Cello/Piano in C “Triple Concerto” – David Oistrakh, v./ Mstislav Rostropovich, cello/ Sviatoslav Richter, piano/ Berlin Philharmonic Orch./ Herbert von Karajan – EMI/Resonance Recordings Ltd./Hi-Q Records

A super-classic recording from 1969 with four of the biggest names in classical music at the time, now in super-fidelity (for a price).

Published on June 24, 2013

BEETHOVEN: Concerto for Violin, Cello and Piano in C, Op. 56 “Triple Concerto” – David Oistrakh, v./ Mstislav Rostropovich, cello/ Sviatoslav Richter, piano/ Berlin Philharmonic Orch./ Herbert von Karajan – EMI/Resonance Recordings Ltd./Hi-Q Records xrcd24 HIQXTRCD6 [elusivedisc.com] ****1/2:

This unusual work was the only concerto which Beethoven ever composed for more than a single solo instrument, and was supposedly written for Beethoven’s pupil, the Archduke Rudolf (also remembered in the “Archduke” Trio. Besides the soloists, the Concerto is scored for woodwinds and brass, plus strings and timpani. Its first movement begins rather quietly, and later the main theme is introduced by the three solo instruments. This movement had a character of fashionable dignity to listeners of the time. The cello and violin are most important in the slow movement, with the piano providing accompaniment. The third movement is a polonaise, with a bolero-like rhythm.

There has been a huge spectrum of opinion expressed in reviews and online about this particular recording in its original LP and CD reissue version and in a more recent EMI remastered reissue. While most consider it one of the classic recordings, and a tribute to the four top names performing it, as well as EMI having included it in their great Recordings of the Century series, others feel that it is one of the worst classical recordings ever made. Norman Lebrecht, a clear Karajan-hater (I am not a fan of the conductor either), listed this album as one of his “20 Worst Ever.” And pianist Richter, who didn’t like Karajan either, disowned the recording after it was made. One reviewer even headed his comments with “When big names made a big blunder in recording.”

However, most listeners will not agree with the negative comments after hearing this terrific disc. The three soloists perform to the utmost level, and neither of them try to hog the musical spotlight. Plus Karajan gives them just right support with the Philharmonic. One aspect that probably aids a positive judgement is the excellent remastering done by Resonance Recordings and JVC’s xrcd-production people on the original EMI tapes. The first two pages of the booklet notes in the bound-book CD album lay out the many complex steps in the customized xrcd24 mastering process. The icing-on-the-cake here is that no special player or converter is required to hear the enhanced fidelity of this CD, which has been down-sampled to the same 44.1K/16-bit format as all CDs. And that is why I have it categorized in this hi-res section.  The only con is the price: about $42 on Amazon. Also, this work is only about 37 minutes length, and EMI’s own version also included the Brahms Double Concerto. [Our Amazon button goes to this version.]  However, the EMI reissue (which provided some enhancement over the original CD) sounds rather wooly and opaque next to the clear, clean and wider-range Hi-Q disc, which also has more presence and a deeper soundstage.

—John Sunier




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