Author Topic: Rudolf Serkin  (Read 18590 times)

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George

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Rudolf Serkin
« on: February 03, 2009, 04:03:10 AM »
In honor of this great pianist, I have decided to start a thread just for him. I will post my thoughts on his CDs and invite you to do the same. I plan to paste a number of my posts from the old GMG here in this thread. The old thread just focused on his Beethoven, but this one is open to all discussion on the pianist.

Here's a link to the old thread: Here's a link to the old discussion.

I've also found a fairly comprehensive discography for this artist: http://fischer.hosting.paran.com/music/music.htm
« Last Edit: March 27, 2009, 12:12:25 PM by George »

George

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Re: Rudolf Serkin
« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2009, 06:46:48 PM »
Rudolf Serkin's Beethoven - Because Serkin's Beethoven sonata performances are spread out over a number of different labels and at different points in his career, I have attempted to summarize and comment on these various releases. A few have been left out (on Pearl, Aura, etc), only because I haven't heard them yet, but if I can get a copy of these, I will add them to this review.


This 5CD set on Columbia Legends contains all of Serkin's stereo Beethoven recordings for Sony, compiling the three releases pictured above it, except for the Fantasy from the Essential Classics CD and the 1960 Op. 110 from the "Unreleased Box." The 5CD has a later recording of Op. 110, from 1971. Much of this 5CD set is simply OK. This includes Op. 26, 31/1, 57, 78, 81a, 101 and 110. In these sonatas, his technical ability was either beginning to decline or had already declined. As for the better performances, I thought that the Op. 111 was far and away the best of the lot. His Serkinian power and solidity in the first movement led to a tender and profound second movement. The Moonlight, which also can be found coupled with his Appassionata, Pathetique and Les Adieux on a single disc was excellent. I thought the Op. 109, 22, 13, 10/2 and Hammerklavier were also excellent. I don't think I've heard anyone generate the wall of sound that Serkin creates at the start of his Hammerklavier. I was simply awestruck! This one is also available as a single disc (used) on Sony Essential Classics. His Op. 2/1 and 27/1 were not quite as good, but still recommendable and enjoyable. So overall, more strengths than weaknesses IMO, so I recommend the set as a whole. These recordings were made between 1962 and 1977. Luckily, many of them are available at an earlier point in his career when he was at his peak.

For example, Op. 78 and 81a are available on a 2CD set by Music and Arts. These two performances are excellent and come coupled with the best Waldstein I have ever heard. The sound is certainly not as good as the Sony set, but with performances like these, one easy forgets the sound. The main redeeming feature of this set is the best Waldstein ever recorded, IMO. The Op. 110 in the 5CD set is eclipsed by his other stereo recording from 1960.

This 1960 Op. 110 is contained in this Sony 3CD set. Why Sony chose to include the later one in the 5CD set is beyond me. Unfortunately the only way to get this incredible performance is to buy the 3CD set, even though doing so results in duplicating much of the 5CD set. Nice move, Sony! Although only 11 years separate these 2 performances of Op. 110, the difference is like night and day! The 1960 performance is much better recorded and performed. The sound is warmer and more suitable to this sonata. The central movement has great power and rhythmic drive and elsewhere he has an uncharacteristic gentleness and depth of feeling that makes for a superb reading. The 1971 has much drier sound and little of the other redeeming qualities of the 1960 version. I think it was a terrible mistake for Sony to only include the 1960 finale in the 5CD set. At the least, they should have discarded the 1971 performance in favor of the 1960. Even stranger is the fact that Serkin himself did not approve of the 1960 performance for release.

The Op. 57 from the M&A set is also bettered in mono sound, this time here on this Sony CD. The remainder of this disc (in mono sound) is also excellent and deserves an unqualified recommendation. All of the performances better his later stereo recordings IMO. The transfers are better here than the M&A set, so the duplicated performances didn't bother me at all.  

The later performances on this live DG CD, are all bettered by earlier performances in his discography. It is surely of interest to admirers of the pianist, but not a wise place to begin if just starting out.     

If you are just beginning to collect Serkin's Beethoven, I suggest starting with the mono Sony and/or Music and Arts discs, as the performances are all excellent on these discs. The Sony has better transfers but the M&A has that stellar Waldstein. When I last checked, the M&A is available through Archiv Music. Then, if more is desired, the above 5CD Sony set is not too big an investment. However, I would not be without the 3CD set, for it has that incredible Op. 110 that is unique to that release. My experience with Serkin's Beethoven has shown me that his earlier performances are the ones to have.  



« Last Edit: February 06, 2009, 04:04:40 AM by George »

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Rudolf Serkin
« Reply #2 on: February 05, 2009, 10:11:12 PM »
Here's one of the greatest Mozart concerto discs I know.

It's a very dark and violent reading of Concerto #20 -- real Don Giovanni music, if you know what I mean.

It may not fit everyones idea of how this music should be played, but it is, I think, essential listening for everyone.
Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen

George

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Re: Rudolf Serkin
« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2009, 04:08:41 AM »
I have edited my first posts to open up the topic of this thread to include all discussion about Rudolf Serkin.

My second post has been edited for clarity.  :)

Offline aquablob

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Re: Rudolf Serkin
« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2009, 05:55:43 AM »
Not necessary: click "notify" at the bottom of the page.

Q

Well that changes everything!!

George

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Re: Rudolf Serkin
« Reply #5 on: February 06, 2009, 06:02:44 AM »
Not necessary: click "notify" at the bottom of the page.

Q

When I do that I end up with email notification.  :-\

If I just post in the thread, I see it under "new replies to your posts" and get no email.

I never figured out how to adjust this, so I usually do what aquariuswb did.

Offline springrite

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Re: Rudolf Serkin
« Reply #6 on: February 06, 2009, 06:13:08 AM »
I have a DVD of Serkin playing Beethoven late sonatas and it looked like his finger joints were red and swollen. He played wonderfully nevertheless. Did he suffer from arthritis late in his life?

Agree with the Hammerklavier and the Mozart PC #20.
Do what I must do, and let what must happen happen.

Offline Holden

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Re: Rudolf Serkin
« Reply #7 on: February 06, 2009, 06:36:13 PM »
George - do you have his Diabellis? And if so, what do you think?
Cheers

Holden

George

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Re: Rudolf Serkin
« Reply #8 on: February 06, 2009, 07:41:28 PM »
George - do you have his Diabellis? And if so, what do you think?

I do and I think they are great!

I especially love the crickets in the concluding minutes, very cool.  8)

George

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Re: Rudolf Serkin
« Reply #9 on: February 06, 2009, 07:42:13 PM »
I have a DVD of Serkin playing Beethoven late sonatas and it looked like his finger joints were red and swollen. He played wonderfully nevertheless. Did he suffer from arthritis late in his life?

Agree with the Hammerklavier and the Mozart PC #20.

Yes, his hands were often referred to as sausage fingers. 

Offline val

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Re: Rudolf Serkin
« Reply #10 on: February 07, 2009, 02:59:54 AM »
If I had a favorite pianist, it would be Serkin.

His recordings of Mozart piano Concerti with Schneider, Szell and Ormandy (12, 17, 19, 20, 27), some of his recordings of Beethoven (Sonatas opus 13, 27/2, 81A, 109, Piano Concerti 1, 2 and 5 with Ormandy), Schubert (Sonatas D 959 and 960, Impromptus opus 142, Trio opus 100 and Fantasia for piano and violin with Adolf Busch), Brahms (First Piano Quartet opus 25 with the Busch Quartet) and Schumann (Piano Quintet with the Budapest) are among my most cherished of my collection.

Offline rubio

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Re: Rudolf Serkin
« Reply #11 on: February 12, 2009, 12:36:20 AM »
I thought that the Op. 111 was far and away the best of the lot. His Serkinian power and solidity in the first movement led to a tender and profound second movement.



Is this Op. 111 also available in the above set? Or on some single CD?

Hammerklavier were also excellent. I don't think I've heard anyone generate the wall of sound that Serkin creates at the start of his Hammerklavier. I was simply awestruck! This one is also available as a single disc (used) on Sony Essential Classics.

Is the Hammerklavier available in both the below CD's, or are these different performances? Difficult to navigate in the Serkin repertoire...

 
“One good thing about music, when it hits- you feel no pain” Bob Marley

George

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Re: Rudolf Serkin
« Reply #12 on: February 12, 2009, 04:17:54 AM »
Is this Op. 111 also available in the above set? Or on some single CD?

The Op. 111 is the same in the 3CD and the 5CD set, but I don't think it was released on a single CD. The 3CD has only one unique performance, the best Op. 110 ever recorded IMO.

Quote
Is the Hammerklavier available in both the below CD's, or are these different performances? Difficult to navigate in the Serkin repertoire...

 

Same performances.

There is a handy discography for Serkin. I just tracked it down!

Offline rubio

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Re: Rudolf Serkin
« Reply #13 on: February 12, 2009, 04:33:51 AM »
The Op. 111 is the same in the 3CD and the 5CD set, but I don't think it was released on a single CD. The 3CD has only one unique performance, the best Op. 110 ever recorded IMO.

Same performances.

There is a handy discography for Serkin. I just tracked it down!

Thanks a lot!
“One good thing about music, when it hits- you feel no pain” Bob Marley

Offline rubio

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Re: Rudolf Serkin
« Reply #14 on: February 12, 2009, 09:35:30 AM »
If I had a favorite pianist, it would be Serkin.

Piano Concerti 1, 2 and 5 with Ormandy)

The 2nd concerto is also conducted by Ormandy? It seems like it's 100% impossible to find.
“One good thing about music, when it hits- you feel no pain” Bob Marley

George

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Re: Rudolf Serkin
« Reply #15 on: February 12, 2009, 10:20:16 AM »
The 2nd concerto is also conducted by Ormandy? It seems like it's 100% impossible to find.

Holden found a source for me, but I never acted on it.  :-\

George

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Re: Rudolf Serkin
« Reply #16 on: March 27, 2009, 05:01:02 AM »
A very special broadcast of some of Serkin's live performances will air tomorrow night, 7:00 pm EST

The program:

•J. S. Bach: Capriccio in B-flat Major, BWV 992 ("On the Departure of His Most Beloved Brother") [r. live 1950]
•Mendelssohn: Prelude and Fugue in E Minor, Op. 35/1 [r. live 1975]
•Schubert: Moments Musicaux, Op. 94, Nos. 1-4, 6 [r. 1952]

It will be broadcasted by Lance from CMG and can be heard on your computer.


Offline Bogey

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Re: Rudolf Serkin
« Reply #17 on: March 27, 2009, 05:39:41 AM »
GREAT thread, George! 

Probably my favorite Serkin recording on the shelf:



Sonata for Violin and Piano no 1 in G major, Op. 78 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Adolf Busch (Violin), Rudolf Serkin (Piano)

Sonata for Violin and Piano no 2 in A major, Op. 100 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Adolf Busch (Violin), Rudolf Serkin (Piano)
      
Sonata for Violin and Piano no 1 in A minor, Op. 105 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Adolf Busch (Violin), Rudolf Serkin (Piano)
      
Hungarian Dances (21) for Piano 4 hands, WoO 1: no 2 in D minor by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Adolf Busch (Violin), Bruno Seidler-Winkler (Piano)
      
Hungarian Dances (21) for Piano 4 hands, WoO 1: no 5 in F sharp minor by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Adolf Busch (Violin), Bruno Seidler-Winkler (Piano)

Hungarian Dances (21) for Piano 4 hands, WoO 1: no 20 in E minor by Johannes Brahms

Date of Recording: 05/04/1931


I am also fond of these two discs:

Rudolf Serkin
The First Recordings
EMI 7 54374 2



This has a lot with Adolf Busch or the Busch Chamber Players (so I am guessing they can be found elsewhere in better packaging, ie Pearl and newer EMI releases), but it also has:
Beethoven: Sonata No. 23 "Appassionata"-Recorded in 1936

Is this particualr LvB recording on another disc, George

Another is:

Rudolf Serkin
On the Radio During His Debut
February 23, 1936
Label: The Radio Years


However, these recordings can be had on this disc, and I believe it is the only one in print that has them (could be wrong here):



http://www.arkivmusic.com/classical/Drilldown?name_id1=858&name_role1=1&name_id2=56717&name_role2=3&bcorder=31&comp_id=1984

They are the last two listed.



« Last Edit: March 27, 2009, 05:51:35 AM by Bogey »
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George

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Re: Rudolf Serkin
« Reply #18 on: March 27, 2009, 06:28:19 AM »

Rudolf Serkin
On the Radio During His Debut
February 23, 1936
Label: The Radio Years


However, these recordings can be had on this disc, and I believe it is the only one in print that has them (could be wrong here):



http://www.arkivmusic.com/classical/Drilldown?name_id1=858&name_role1=1&name_id2=56717&name_role2=3&bcorder=31&comp_id=1984

That looks very cool, I will have to check it out. How are the transfers? Decent amount of noise?

George

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Re: Rudolf Serkin
« Reply #19 on: March 27, 2009, 06:29:15 AM »
I am also fond of these two discs:

Rudolf Serkin
The First Recordings
EMI 7 54374 2



This has a lot with Adolf Busch or the Busch Chamber Players (so I am guessing they can be found elsewhere in better packaging, ie Pearl and newer EMI releases), but it also has:
Beethoven: Sonata No. 23 "Appassionata"-Recorded in 1936

Is this particualr LvB recording on another disc, George

I believe it's on his GPOTC set.

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