Author Topic: CD Purchase of the Year? (Or: Russell Sherman Plays Beethoven's Piano Concerti)  (Read 6350 times)

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Offline Todd

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I got a hankering to hear both a new LvB piano concerto cycle and a bunch of new Emperor recordings, so I started snooping, and what did I find?  A new-ish release of a “younger” Russell Sherman playing the Big Five!  Now, I’ve known about his newer live recording of the concertos with the mighty Monadnock Festival Orchestra under James Bolle on GM Recordings for a while, and I’ve entertained thoughts of buying it, but when I saw the Vanguard reissue of the early-80s Pro Arte recordings of the same works with Vaclav Neumann and the great Czech Philharmonic for a whopping $16, I decided to act.  To say that I’m glad that I did is a major understatement: this is one of the finest Beethoven piano concerto cycles I’ve heard.  In fact, I can’t really think of one that I prefer by a great margin.  Not even the Schnabel and first Kempff cycles blow this one away.  It’s quite simply a magnificent cycle.

First and foremost one must consider Sherman’s pianism.  Yes, he’s heavy-handed and idiosyncratic to the point of outright eccentricity sometimes, and he plays with tempi all the time, but he makes it work.  He breathes new life into the pieces, making the listener reconsider everything anew.  His take on the cadenzas, for instance, involve all manner of tweaks, yet everything sounds almost as though invented on the spot.  More important than that is the overall freshness he brings to the works.  The C major concerto jumps right out of the speakers with a vitality and drive that many live recordings can’t match.  And things are kept light and youthful, while still allowing for some more introspective playing.  Ditto the Second.  The Third is darker, stormier, and more intense, and boasts an extremely slow, lovely, and shaded slow movement that I think people will either love or hate.  The fourth concerto is probably the comparative weak link in the set, but that just means it is merely wonderful.  Lyrical where required, more energetic when appropriate, and perhaps just a little to showy, Sherman nonetheless delivers.  And his Emperor?  Well, let’s just say it’s better than average.  More detail will be forthcoming on this one later.

I mentioned Sherman’s proclivity to tempo tinker before, and sure enough he does.  The overall timings of all five concertos are a bit on the long side, but the music making never sounds slow or labored or contrived.  It all flows along wonderfully from start to finish.  How he (and the conductor and band) manages it is something I cannot adequately explain.

And speaking of the conductor and band: both acquit themselves quite nicely, thank you very much.  Neumann shows that he’s no journeyman only conductor; he knows and understands the music, and he sympathetically supports the soloist.  The Czech Philharmonic sound and play splendidly, with wonderful strings, and some distinctive and compelling wind playing, as one generally expects from this band from the time.  In short, Sherman gets superb backing from artists of a very high caliber indeed.

To sound, well, let’s just say that it doesn’t sound like 1984.  The sound isn’t glassy or hard; it’s detailed, reasonably warm, and let’s everything shine through.  It’s a bit bass light at times, giving the left channel a slight apparent boost.  There’s some spotlighting, though I’ve heard more exaggerated spotlighting.

So, a truly individual take on these warhorses from high caliber artists in excellent sound at a bargain basement price.  What’s not to like?  If you really need more enticement, the set also includes Sherman playing the Op 119 Bagatelles, and they are predictably superb.  Though I’ve switched my listening focus to new music, it’s sets like this one that remind me that even the most recorded music can sound fresh and alive if played right.  Of course, Sherman’s very interventionist approach will not appeal to everyone, so those who like nothing but straight-man artistry ought not to buy this, but more adventurous souls may want to consider it.

Now what can best this during the year?  Not even Sinae Lee’s superb Szymanowski cycle or Michel Block’s recording of Schumann’s Novelleten do, though they more or less match it.  Ah well, if I get one or two more discs or sets at this level, I’ll be happy indeed.
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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Don

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I purchased those Sherman cds when Pro Arte released them; always liked them.

Michel

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Excellent review, thank you.

Todd, how many Emperor's do you have now? You must have about 50!!!

Offline SonicMan46

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Todd - thanks for your superb review on Russell Sherman's Beethoven Piano Concertos - based on your always convincing comments, I decided to purchase this 3-CD set (a bargin BTW for others considering the set) - just came a few days ago, and I've listened to the first CD - don't think that I'll be disappointed - need a few more listens to compare your thoughts but this is certainly an important release - Dave  :)

Offline AnthonyAthletic

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I have had this set for about a month now, and its never been off the player.  A wonderful set of concertos, and the bagatelles (which I had not heard before) are dazzling.

The Emperor concerto, is beautiful, soundwise and performance.  The 2nd mvt, played slower than most shines (real lump in throat time...gets me everytime), every inkling of the lovely theme drawn out to perfection.

"Two possibilities exist: Either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying"      (Arthur C. Clarke)

Offline SonicMan46

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Todd - thanks for your superb review on Russell Sherman's Beethoven Piano Concertos - based on your always convincing comments, I decided to purchase this 3-CD set (a bargin BTW for others considering the set) - just came a few days ago, and I've listened to the first CD - don't think that I'll be disappointed - need a few more listens to compare your thoughts but this is certainly an important release - Dave  :)

Interesting problem on my 2nd disc of this set - began to 'skip' about 5 mins or so into the second track - looked closely at the surface and there was an obvious 'pinpoint' defect about 7/8" from the outer rim - defects that are obvious have been an extreme rarity for me (been collecting since '84).  Bought the set through Amazon Marketplace - great service, so far - a self-addressed stamped return envelope was sent to me a few days ago, and the set is being returned for a replacement (they are going to inspect the defective disc & the new ones being mailed out to me) - hope this issue is corrected; this is an outstanding performance & value -  :D

Offline dirkronk

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Interesting problem on my 2nd disc of this set - began to 'skip' about 5 mins or so into the second track - looked closely at the surface and there was an obvious 'pinpoint' defect about 7/8" from the outer rim - defects that are obvious have been an extreme rarity for me (been collecting since '84).  Bought the set through Amazon Marketplace - great service, so far - a self-addressed stamped return envelope was sent to me a few days ago, and the set is being returned for a replacement (they are going to inspect the defective disc & the new ones being mailed out to me) - hope this issue is corrected; this is an outstanding performance & value -  :D

If you don't mind saying, whom did you purchase from? I have this set in my own Amazon yet-to-be-ordered cart and would prefer to deal with someone with an understanding of any problems that may manifest. Thanks.

Dirk

Offline SonicMan46

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If you don't mind saying, whom did you purchase from? I have this set in my own Amazon yet-to-be-ordered cart and would prefer to deal with someone with an understanding of any problems that may manifest. Thanks.


Dirk - I've been dealing w/ Jaclyn Bense @ MyMusic&Video.com - she has been quite responsive to my e-mails; she plans to not only inspect the defective disc, but to open the replacement box and look at the same area on the disc's surface (don't known if that will be a guarantee, but I suspect this is an isolated problem - hopefully).  Hope that info helps - Dave  :D

BorisG

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Offline SonicMan46

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Interesting problem on my 2nd disc of this set - began to 'skip' about 5 mins or so into the second track - looked closely at the surface and there was an obvious 'pinpoint' defect about 7/8" from the outer rim - defects that are obvious have been an extreme rarity for me (been collecting since '84).  Bought the set through Amazon Marketplace - great service, so far - a self-addressed stamped return envelope was sent to me a few days ago, and the set is being returned for a replacement (they are going to inspect the defective disc & the new ones being mailed out to me) - hope this issue is corrected; this is an outstanding performance & value -  :D

Well, just a follow-up of the problem above - received the new box of Sherman's performances - the 2nd disc played fine (on both my home system & computer in my office); astonishingly on examining the surface, the same defect was present!   :o  Thus, I suspect this surface defect had no effect on play-back, must have just been another 'non-visible' issue w/ that first box sent me -  :-\    :D

George

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Well, just a follow-up of the problem above - received the new box of Sherman's performances - the 2nd disc played fine (on both my home system & computer in my office); astonishingly on examining the surface, the same defect was present!   :o  Thus, I suspect this surface defect had no effect on play-back, must have just been another 'non-visible' issue w/ that first box sent me -  :-\    :D

I don't think so, I think that that defect is the cause of the problem. I just exchanged my copy for another at the store and it had the excat same small indentation on the playing surface. I was able to import it onto my computer, but then again, I was able to do the same with my prior copy the first time I played it. My theory is that the defect surfaces after a few plays and once it's there, it doesn't go away. Perhaps it's exposure to air that actvates the defect. The store said that they would take mine back, but I wanted to try another copy to see if it would play. Like I said, I was luckily able to import the whole as a WAV file, but when I put it in my player, it skipped at the same exact spot.  >:( I recommend that anyone who buys this set import the second track for disc 2 immediately upon opening the case, because it seems that soon after the skipping problem surfaces and deoes not go away. For the record, the skipping is from 6:06 to 6:27 on track 2, CD 2. I have burned a copy of CD 2 and it plays fine, no problems.     

George

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For all those having problems with the track that skips (the adagio of the Second Piano Concerto), I made a WAV file replacement ... with a little help from George. ;)

Here's the link. It's live for another six days or about 98 downloads (I think ???)

http://www.yousendit.com/download/WFJWZFhqQ0MyWGMwTVE9PQ

LOL!!  :)

I just made an actual WAV file from a new copy (should be better quality)

You can download it here:

http://www.yousendit.com/transfer.php?action=download&ufid=CD753FAC5F32D12C

Mark

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For anyone who's been following in this thread the saga of the damaged second CD of this set (which seems to be quite a widespread occurrence), an update:

Following Tony's generosity in sending me (gratis) his second (damaged) set of these fine performances - and with invaluable help from George, who created and uploaded a WAV file of the track that's f***ed in so many sets - I set to work on a convincing replacement second CD. Having burned a perfect replica to a CD-R, I then used a scanner and a sheet of black paper (the secret ingredient, as it turned out ... though I'll spare you the nerdy details) to create a replacement CD facia label. The result? See for yourself below. Better still, post which you think is the original, and which the fake:



To Tony and George, my thanks once again. A job well done, lads. :)

Offline SonicMan46

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Well, I had some time this weekend & copied the second original disc to CD-R - played just fine; like Mark, scanned in the disc label and obtained the pic below - w/ my CD/DVD label program (Acoustica) & a glossy label the 'round' image was brought in fine - maybe not as 'perfect' as Mark's label, but 'quick & dirty'!  :)

 

Mark

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Pretty neat job there, Sonic! ;)

Incidentally, it's the top CD in my image above which is the fake. I have to admit I was pretty fastidious about getting it as perfect as I could. :)

Offline Todd

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This superb set, cheap in its current incarnation, is now only $6 at BRO.  Time to stock up?

(The Bruce Hungerford LvB sonata recordings are also back in at BRO.)
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

People would rather believe than know - E.O. Wilson

George

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Re: CD Purchase of the Year? (Or: Russell Sherman Plays Beethoven's Piano Conce
« Reply #16 on: November 05, 2007, 07:18:04 PM »
This superb set, cheap in its current incarnation, is now only $6 at BRO.  Time to stock up?

(The Bruce Hungerford LvB sonata recordings are also back in at BRO.)

Thanks for the tip, Todd.  :)

Offline hvbias

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I've been looking for a non defective CD 2 ever since I discovered Sherman's Beethoven Piano Sonata cycle as I really liked the performances of him in the piano concerti as well, and I find this cycle much preferable to the one with Monadnock Festival Orchestra. After going through a few Vanguard sets with the dimple on CD 2 that I've been unable to rip on any drive, I finally came across the original Pro-Arte release at a record store. Perfect across all the discs! Any other cycle and I would have just given up but this is a top 3 cycle for me. Mentioning this in case others were just as frustrated with the situation as me.

« Last Edit: May 12, 2022, 04:36:40 PM by hvbias »
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