Tchaikovsky – Piano Concerto No. 1 / Richter – Our Favorite Performance and Sound By Far

More of the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893)

More Classical Music

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  • This superb classical masterpiece makes its Hot Stamper debut with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • With huge amounts of hall space, weight and energy, this is DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND by any standard
  • When the brass is the way it is here – rich and clear, not thin and shrill – you have yourself a top quality DG pressing
  • Very little smear to the strings, horns or piano

This vintage Deutsche Grammophon pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the Wiener Symphony, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the Best Sides of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1962
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Size

One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.

Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.

We often have to go back and downgrade the copies that we were initially impressed with in light of such a standout pressing. Who knew the recording could be that huge, spacious and three dimensional? We sure didn’t, not until we played the copy that had those qualities, and that copy might have been number 8 or 9 in the rotation. Think about it: if you had only seven copies, you might not have ever gotten to hear a copy that sounded so open and clear. And how many even dedicated audiophiles would have more than one or two clean original copies with which to do a shootout?

One further point needs to be made: most of the time these very special pressings just plain rock harder. When you hear a copy do what this copy can, it’s an entirely different – and dare I say unforgettable — listening experience.

What We’re Listening For on The Tchaikovsky First

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper..

A Must Own Record

This wonderful piano concerto — one of the greatest ever composed — should be part of any serious Classical Collection.

Others that belong in that category can be found here.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Allegro Non Troppo E Molto Maestoso – Allegro Con Spirito

Side Two

Andantino Semplice – Prestissimo
Allegro Con Fuoco

Wikipedia on Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1

The Piano Concerto No. 1 in B♭ minor, Op. 23, was composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky between November 1874 and February 1875. It was revised in the summer of 1879 and again in December 1888. The first version received heavy criticism from Nikolai Rubinstein, Tchaikovsky’s desired pianist. Rubinstein later repudiated his previous accusations and became a fervent champion of the work. It is one of the most popular of Tchaikovsky’s compositions and among the best known of all piano concertos.

The first movement starts with a short horn theme in B♭ minor, accompanied by orchestral chords which quickly modulate to the lyrical and passionate theme in D♭ major. This subsidiary theme is heard three times, the last of which is preceded by a piano cadenza, and never appears again throughout the movement. The introduction ends in a subdued manner. The exposition proper then begins in the concerto’s tonic minor key, with a Ukrainian folk theme based on a melody that Tchaikovsky heard performed by blind lirnyks at a market in Kamianka (near Kyiv). A short transitional passage is a call and response section on the tutti and the piano, alternating between high and low registers. The second subject group consists of two alternating themes, the first of which features some of the melodic contours from the introduction. This is answered by a smoother and more consoling second theme, played by the strings and set in the subtonic key (A♭ major) over a pedal point, before a more turbulent reappearance of the woodwind theme, this time re-enforced by driving piano arpeggios, gradually builds to a stormy climax in C minor that ends in a perfect cadence on the piano. After a short pause, a closing section, based on a variation of the consoling theme, closes the exposition in A♭ major.

The development section transforms this theme into an ominously building sequence, punctuated with snatches of the first subject material. After a flurry of piano octaves, fragments of the “plaintive” theme are revisited for the first time in E♭ major, then for the second time in G minor, and then the piano and the strings take turns to play the theme for the third time in E major while the timpani furtively plays a tremolo on a low B until the first subject’s fragments are continued.

The recapitulation features an abridged version of the first subject, working around to C minor for the transition section. In the second subject group, the consoling second theme is omitted, and instead the first theme repeats, with a reappearance of the stormy climactic build that was previously heard in the exposition, but this time in B♭ major. However, this time the excitement is cut short by a deceptive cadence. A brief closing section, made of G-flat major chords played by the whole orchestra and the piano, is heard. Then a piano cadenza appears, the second half of which contains subdued snatches of the second subject group’s first theme in the work’s original minor key. The B♭ major is restored in the coda, when the orchestra re-enters with the second subject group’s second theme; the tension then gradually builds up, leading to a triumphant conclusion, ending with a plagal cadence.

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