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Gary Graffman, a Horowitz pupil, was part of a group of great American pianists in the 1950s (others were Kapell, Fleischer and Cliburn) – but this dry RCA recording is a hindrance. Although Graffman’s readings are rather objectivised (at times they are almost deconstructions), there are moments of abandon (the coda of the First Ballade is surely influenced by Horowitz). Graffman’s technique is awesome, but the Fourth Ballade, the most interpretatively problematical, is uninvolving. There is hardly a gap between tracks – a real problem between the Fourth Ballade and the Andante spianato (heard without orchestra). The latter is a fine performance, with gorgeous, singing lines. The First Concerto suffers from a cut in the opening tutti. Graffman plays well, if not, in this piece, in the class of Pollini. Munch’s forces blaze on occasion, but it is not enough. Even the Mendelssohn fails to sparkle. Documentary value only, really.

COLIN CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica


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