For those interested in piano concertos, I am writing a collection of recommendations and short reviews.

Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1


Recommended Recording: Vladimir Horowitz with Georges Szell and the New York Philarmonic (1953)


Review: Anthony Tommasini wrote that Beethoven's works are “so audacious and indestructible that they survive even poor performances”. Not so for Tchaikovsky’s. Fortunately, Horowitz breezes through the concerto's bland bits, and finishes the first movement with a tremendous bang. An electrifying performance of the most recognizable concerto in the piano repertoire, on a live event celebrating the 25th anniversary of Horowitz' American debut.


Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3


Recommended Recording: Vladimir Horowitz with Eugene Ormandy and the New York Philarmonic (1978)


Review: Twenty-five years later, Horowitz, now 74 years old, is back at Carnegie Hall. Playing Rachmaninoff requires superlative dexterity, and a good dose of creamy romanticism. The live performance is uplifting, unpolished - at times astonishing - on a piano tuned to a bright metallic sound. The final movement opens with a cannonade and closes amid loud cheers. One can only envy those who were there that night, for Horowitz' Golden Jubilee concert.


Ravel Piano Concerto in G Major


Recommended Recording: Krystian Zimerman with Pierre Boulez and the Cleveland Orchestra (1998)


Review: Zimerman, Boulez, and the Cleveland Orchestra performing Ravel’s jazzy, modernist masterpiece; this record is self-recommending. The sound quality is exceptional, and one hears each instrument distinctly. As close as can get to a definitive interpretation of a piano concerto.


Brahms Piano Concerto No 2


Recommended Recording: Sviatoslav Richter with Erich Leinsdorf and the Chicago Symphony (1960)


Review: By 1960, when Richter finally came to America, he was already a legend: the Soviet Union’s foremost pianist. Richter launched his tour with Brahm’s monumental second piano concerto. Brahm’s romantic showpiece is brimming with splendid orchestral themes, but Richter’s precisely articulated piano and lyricism shine through. A fast-paced, grammy winning performance, with a whiff of Cold War drama.

Schumann Piano Concerto in A Minor


Recommended Recording: Murray Perahia with Colin Davis and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (1989)


Review: The Schumann concerto is universally well-liked, and performances are typically pleasing. Perahia and Davis stand out for the quality of their dialogue between piano and orchestra. Their timing in the third movement is so satisfying that once accustomed to their interpretation, other recordings feel slightly off tempo.

Chopin Piano Concerto No. 1 & 2


Recommended Recording: Krystian Zimerman with the Polish Festival Orchestra (1999)


Review: The Chopin concertos' coarse orchestration can be distracting, but the piano is the most delightful in the repertoire. Ever a perfectionist, Zimerman recruited and rehearsed an entire orchestra solely for playing those two concertos the way he wanted them played. Zimerman's piano evokes powerful emotions, and listening to this recording, in full, is a stirring experience.