Monday, June 12, 2017

Khatchaturian: Piano Concerto (Levant)

Cover design by Alex Steinweiss
There was a request for this recording at Buster's blog recently, after he posted some of Oscar Levant's incomparable Gershwin playing. I dug around and found this nice early LP copy, complete with one of Steinweiss' more zany cover designs. This is one of three early recordings listed of Khatchaturian's wild and wacky piano concerto - the others are by Moura Lympany with Fistoulari on English Decca (the first to be issued), and William Kapell with Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony (Victor). Of these, I find Levant's the most convincing, for he cuts loose more than the others do, playing it with all the zest and panache that he brought to everything he touched:

Khatchaturian: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1935)
Oscar Levant with the Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York
conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos
Recorded January 3, 1950
Columbia ML-4288, one LP record
Link (FLAC files, 88.45 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 58.03 MB)

This recording was also issued as a 78 set (Columbia MM-905), and I am sorry to say I don't have that, nor have I ever seen it anywhere. It contains, as a filler, Levant's rarest recording, apparently unissued in any other form - Rachmaninoff's Prelude in D Minor, Op. 23, No. 3. It is so rare that it is on the wants list of the International Piano Archives at the University of Maryland - although it would be easy to miss this, since they do not identify it as the filler for this Khatchaturian Concerto. If you have it, they would like to hear from you!


  1. Alternate links:

  2. Thank you! It's much appreciated.

  3. Hi Bryan - Thanks so much for finding and transferring this! I will provide a link to it in an upcoming post. Khachaturian would seem to be made for Levant, so I am looking forward to listening.

    How interesting that the Rachmaninoff is on the IPA want list. I can't imagine that the 78 set is that rare, but who knows.

    1. Hi Buster - yes, most of the Columbia sets above, say, MM-900 are extremely rare. After the LP had proven itself, nobody wanted 78 sets any more.

  4. Great performance and remarkably good sound for the date. Your usual outstanding transfer. Many thanks!
    Ray Pratt

  5. I discovered that brillant concerto with this LP, wonderful performers.....thanks Bryan to let me listen to it back again !!!!

  6. The only thing that is sad about this is the distant perspective of the whole recording. This is a noisy piece and it just doesn't have the physical impact that it should.

  7. Hi,
    I have a question unrelated to this post.
    I'm a great admirator of Toscanini. There is a serie of great uploads on the blog "Laureate conductors" (, but the blog is inactive since many years.
    I saw that you were in his extra fav blog list, so may I ask for some help ?
    I'm looking for someone who had downloaded all the "Rare Toscanini" items who had been posted by Guido on this blog.