I wish I had the recordings you mention in order to comment more effectively, but I notice that a couple of people who wrote reviews on Amazon do not agree with you about Karajan & Richter performing Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto in B-flat minor (from reviews of a set of CDs that include Karajan & Richter performing Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto in B-flat minor):
"All that said, this set does include Richter's aristocratic First Concerto with the Vienna SO..."
"Richter and Rostropovich give great performances..."
The first goes on to say that there is a better performance of that concerto conducted by Karajan with a different soloist, but calling it "aristocratic" is far from describing it as unlistenable.
All of this makes me rather curious about the performance, but not enough to actually buy it.
First, an apology to all. I am not qualified to be a classical music critic -- I don't have the broad base of knowledge necessary for fair comparison. I should not have made my post "in the heat of the moment" -- I'd listened to my recording again, to be certain of my impressions, before I made the post. I apologize for my arrogant tone. Perhaps I was acting on the general principle jgweed had proposed -- perhaps I was basing my judgements on a "standard" I had in my mind from earlier hearing(s) of a piece. That being said, I still don't personally care for this version of the Tchaikovsky concerto.
Pyrrho, at the Amazon site I just visited (link below) for the recording I have, nearly everyone likes the Rachmaninoff, but the Tchaikovsky... I remain befuddled about the one positive comment on the sound engineering. Perhaps one has to have a fairly sophisticated sound system? There were sections when all I heard was my husband asking, "Are they still there?"
At the link given below, if you read all 25 user reviews and the Amazon critic's review, negative reviewers detail the problems they heard, and positive reviewers just as eloquently defend the recording. Perhaps reading their more learned opinions will give you a clearer idea. Plus I've provided links for you to hear it yourself, at the end of this post.
Amazon.com: Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2; Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1: Sergey Rachmaninov, Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky, Herbert von Karajan, Stanislaw Wislocki, Vienna Symphony Orchestra, Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, Sviatoslav Richter
As for the Beethoven Adagio, I actually played that (badly) when I was young. But this gives me no special insight -- I was clearly NOT a child prodigy. My teacher put me on a selective Beethoven-only regimen (probably because I was heavy handed, arrogant and temperamental) after I butchered Mendelssohn's "Spring Song" so badly she had to leave the room, muttering something about an elephant on ice skates.
In considering jgweed's theory, I must confess that the tempo I prefer for the Adagio just happens to be the same tempo one would use when borrowing this piece for the popular song "Somewhere Out There", from "An American Tale". Hmmm... Coincidence? I still do, personally, commend journeyman Jeno Jando's playing of it -- I have yet to hear it played "up tempo" with the same lyrical beauty. However, I'm sure such performances exist; I'm not all that familiar with the field (of classical pianists).
If you know where other reviews are found, I'd like to consider all perspectives, and learn from them. I'd very much value your opinion, and the opinion of anyone else in this thread. See the Youtube links below for the performance of the Tchaikovsky movement. I haven't read the Youtube "comments" section below these vids yet, but plan to do so.
This is DEFINITELY the sound I have on my recording -- when the first Youtube video began, I nearly had a cataleptic fit (one does not need to be learned, wise, nor discerning to be temperamental, arrogant and overly sensitive). I concede that the performance, at least IMO, seems to improve at the end (if you can endure that long...) This 1st movement takes up all of the 1st two vids and 2 minutes on Vid #3.
YouTube - S. Richter Plays Tchaikovsky Concerto No. 1 (1/4)
YouTube - S. Richter Plays Tchaikovsky Concerto No. 1 (2/4)
YouTube - S. Richter Plays Tchaikovsky Concerto No. 1 (3/4)