25 Essential Beethoven Recordings: The Triple Concerto

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Soviet parternship of Sviatoslav Richter, Mstilav Rostropovich and David Oistrakh came together with the Berlin Philharmonic and conductor Herbert von Karajan in 1969 for Beethoven's under-performed Triple Concerto.

The results are compelling from about every angle -- interpretively, historically and (mostly) sonically. These stars worked together often, but never abroad or on a recording until this point. EMI, however, saw real value in this recording session and it spared no expense in assembling the forces. It made the company a mint.

In his book, The Life and Death of Classical Music, author and critic Norman Lebrecht names this album one of "20 Recordings that Never Should Have Been Made." He points to later comments by Oistrakh, who said, "it was a dreadful recording session and I utterly disown it," opining that the three soloists and conductor felt rushed and didn't communicate with one another in the studio. While it's true that Karajan preferred an ultra-plush orchestral sound, the three soloists also push the conductor to jagged new heights.

The album includes a similarly compelling Brahms Double Concerto of identical vintage by the same string players with George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra.

Tell us what you think about our choice in the comments below.

Beethoven Triple Concerto
Sviatoslav Richter, pianist; David Oistrakh, violinist; Mstislav Rostropovich, cellist; Berlin Philharmonic, conducted by Herbert von Karajan
EMI Classics
Available at Arkivmusic.com

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Comments [4]

Carlos M. Valverde from Costa Rica

Whatever the problems with the recording sessions, or clashes among the interpreters, or between EMI and the artists, I believe this to be a great recording and an excellent testimony of Beethoven's genius and these artists' abilities.
True that putting together such a roster must have been difficult, and probably true too that EMI was more after names to sell than an actual quality product, but the results are fully convincing and one only wishes that a videorecording had been made of the same work, to view it and review it from time to time.
Good choice for an essential Beethoven recording!

Dec. 04 2013 04:04 PM
John McCauley from New York

I agree with your comment about the triple concerto recording - that it is a great recording. It was made in late August or early September, I forget which, in a church in Berlin with famed acoustics, as it was the only time they could get these folks together. There was a record store in Salzburg, the following summer, which had obtained a photo from the photo shoot following the recording (according to Richter, he and Oistrakh were p***** off about ceasing recording for a PR photoshoot. The photo featured all four individuals "grinning like idiots," as Richter writes, but in this one, Richter was "flipping the bird!" ( a particular finger raised in salute.) The Store had the photo blown up into near life size, and displayed in the window. I tried to buy the huge item, but one of the clerks told me he had "dibs"on it!

Nov. 25 2012 12:01 PM
Steve from Belgium

This is the one and only version for me. This is how it should sound.
EMI released this album on CD in the eighties as well but there was a lot of "hizz" in the background because sound editing was not yet available. EMI restored this recording beautifully and released in the EMI Originals CD collection.

Nov. 16 2012 06:36 AM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boontojn, NJ

This Triple Concerto recording is one of the most definitive recordings that I haven ever heard. We are immensely grateful for its existence !!! Beethoven's universal scope in symphonies, concertos, sonatas, string quartets, overtures, chamber music generally ,and song literature is so pervasive and his world consciousness and basic humanity construct an icon unparalled to and past his own era. At Juilliard, I studied his oeuvre and , in those days, all singers learned the concert rep of Beethoven , Schubert , Schumann, Wolf and Grieg, whether they would be opera singers or concert singers. So much of our treasured masterpiece, vocal and instrumental, are unknown quantities to most Americans. THANK YOU WQXR FOR CELEBRATING BEETHOVEN !!! Beethoven's symphonies are the ABCs of most essential single composers' oeuvre of the symphonic literature. Who ever having heard the Waldstein well performed can ever forget its beauty and nuanced scope of emotions. Wagner and his contemporaries and their successors all recognized the epic achievement of Beethoven. I am a romantischer Wagnerian heldentenor and director of the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute at 418A Main Street, Boonton, NJ .I have sung four solo concerts in four solo concerts in the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall. As part of my Ten Language Solo Debut concert at the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall, I sang the Gott ! welch dunkel hier ! aria of Fidelio. it can be heard from the live performance on my three websites. It received rave critical notices in newspapers and magazines. Rudolf Serkin and his son, Peter are among those other great interpreters of Beethoven's piano concertos and sonatas, Artur Rubinstein, Vladimir Horowitz, Walter Gieseking, ignace Paderewvski and Simon Barere, remarkable for their virtuosity, and immense ability to interpret from their own perspective.

Nov. 12 2012 09:46 AM

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No composer impacted the course of Western music like Ludwig van Beethoven. The events of his life are the stuff of Romantic legend, his works permeate concert halls and he remains a cultural icon outside of classical music, turning up in movies, TV soundtracks, commercials and pop songs. Throughout November, WQXR celebrates Beethoven's work through concert broadcasts, multimedia projects, marathons and other features.

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