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Grandeur and Impulsiveness

Joshua Pierce's recording of Brahms' second piano concerto
reviewed by

MSR Classics    MS 1148

Johannes Brahms - Piano Concerto No 2 - César Franck - Les Djinns; Franz Liszt - Concerto Pathétique. Joshua Pierce, Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic Orchestra / Kirk Trevor. © 2005 Joshua Pierce

Prior to even hearing it (that's how hot a reviewer we've got here) I had already written the following:

The cello solo in the slow movement of the Brahms second piano concerto was ravishing. From the very first note we had a vision of flair and inspiration reminiscent of John Martin in his prime. The principal of the Bohuslav Martinu Philarmonic played with ravishing tone and genuine eloquence. His shifts were some of the finest I've ever heard, and his bow control in that tricky last bit was breathtaking. He breathed as one with the principal oboe in the duetty bit, and this listener, at least, was transported with delight at the phrasing of the high bit on the second page.

Oh, by the by, there was some pianist playing as well -- Joshua Pierce. Has played before. Definitely not a beginner.

But then, in the interests of truth and justice, I obliged myself to sit down and actually listen to the thing. And I was (yet again) shocked and appalled.

First of all, the American pianist (Joshua Pierce, for those of you whose attention has wandered) was marvellous. He breathed as one with British conductor Kirk Trevor.

Unluckily, the orchestra was almost complete rubbish. Despite a couple of nice moments in the celli and woodwind (the horns were good) they were in no way up to the standard of the aforementioned Pierce, whose playing was beautifully balanced between grandeur and impulsiveness. The violins were infelicitous, the principal cellist, whom I am too kind to name, pretty stunningly mediocre, and the principal oboe so outstandingly out of tune that one could sense, when he was playing, actual shudderings from both pianist and conductor (shudders mirrored in any sensitive auditor).

To return to the cellist: anyone with that nasal an open A-string has NO RIGHT to use it -- especially in one of the mega-solos in the orchestral cello repertoire. You could hear the tension in his vibrato before every shift, there was an amazingly effortful descent from the heights of the second big entry, and, although the overall tone was not bad, it was impossible for me not to realise that here is a principal cellist who is NOT AS GOOD AS I AM, and therefore has NO RIGHT TO EXIST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You could hear too the panic in the conductor as the oboe came in and, as for Joshua Pierce, he was in such a rush to come in after all that tosh that he made his only tonal fluff in the entire piece. (I hope someone was kind enough to slip him an aspirin afterwards -- I can hear how much he needed one.)

Sorry, have stopped chewing the carpet now. Where was I?

So, anyway, that's my opinion. Serves me right for trying to write a review without troubling myself to listen.

Yours, sadder but wiser,

Copyright © 30 June 2006 Alice McVeigh, Kent UK


Brahms Piano Concerto No 2 - Joshua Pierce

MS 1148 DDD Stereo FIRST RELEASE 79'36" 2005 Joshua Pierce

Joshua Pierce, piano; Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic Orchestra; Kirk Trevor, conductor

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897): Piano Concerto No 2 in B flat Op 83 (Allegro non troppo; Allegro appassionato; Andante - Più adagio - Tempo I - Più adagio; Allegretto grazioso - Un poco più presto); César Franck (1822-1890): Les Djinns - Symphonic Poem for Piano and Orchestra (Allegro molto); Franz Liszt (1811-1886): Concerto Pathétique in E minor for Piano and Orchestra





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