Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1 (CD review)

Also, Khachaturian: Piano Concerto in D flat major.  Boris Berezovsky, piano; Dmitri Liss, Ural Philharmonic Orchestra. Warner Classics 2564 63074-2.

Pity pianist Boris Berezovsky; he gets sabotaged by the recording engineer.

Berezovsky, born in 1969, is the 1990 winner of the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. Ever since then he has been in demand with leading orchestras. He is, to say the least, a virtuoso of the keyboard, able easily to dazzle the ear with his flashy finger work. Since the Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto is a mercurial piece, anyway, his technique functions reasonably well. The big opening theme goes by lickety-split, and then when the second subject arrives the pianist practically stops the performance with his lingering tempo reductions. If you like this sort of thing, it can be quite dramatic. He settles down by the final movement to something a bit more consistent.

I preferred his craftsmanship more in the Khachaturian Concerto, however, where the composer's style is rather a razzle-dazzle affair to begin with, and Berezovsky's overt showmanship shines more brightly. He really seems at home with Khachaturian's bursts of enthusiastic frenzy.

The problem is the sound, recorded in February, 2006. The engineers miked the piano quite closely, making it appear too tubby for ultimate realism; and then they give the orchestra a fat, blurred presence that does nothing to improve matters. Listen to Cliburn (RCA or JVC.), Gilels (RCA), or Argerich (DG or Philips) in the Tchaikovsky, and you find an altogether more solid and more convincing soundscape. And the Cliburn and Gilels recordings go back over forty and fifty years.



  1. My name is Louis Solomons. I am an avid fan of classical music. I enjoy reading your blog on this subject. It allows me to broaden my horizons and explore listening in more depth.

    I did Music GCSE and A Level and A2 at school, as well as Grade 8 Voice with ABRSM. I am now undertaking ATCL (Associate Trinity College London in Singing.

    I own the 60 CD Collection of Living Stereo. Does the Cliburn recording you refer to on RCA come from there (its coupled with Rach 2)?

    Also, I was particular interested in your review of the Heifetz Sibelius concerto, also from that set. What I need more clarification on though is whether or not you'd recommend it to me. (You see, I'm very into 'the Oldies' - Cliburn, Heifetz, Reiner etc).

    I'm currently listening to the recording Pierre Monteux made with the BSO of Tchaikovsky's final symphony. Fantastic stuff!

    I'd appreciate your views on what I have written.

    Thank you

  2. I, too, love the old "Living Stereo" series from RCA as well as the "Living Presence" series from Mercury. I'd recommend anything from either series. And, yes, the Cliburn-Tchaikovsky disc I refer to is from the early series. It became a huge seller for Cliburn and RCA. I have it on a remastered JVC XRCD, but the regular RCA release isn't bad.

    You can find other recommendations in "The Basic Classical Collection on Compact Disc":



Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor ofThe $ensible Soundmagazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me -- point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio StreamLine preamplifier, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura's hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my LG G7 ThinQ cell phone, which features surprisingly sophisticated audio circuitry. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can't imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.

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It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job. --John J. Puccio

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa