Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Rachmaninov - The Four Piano Concertos/Rhapsody On A Theme Of Paganini, Ashkenazy, LSO, Previn (Decca - SXLF 6565-7)

Sergei Rachmaninov being one of the best pianists of all times is actually not being fond of labelled as a pianist. Not hard to guess why. He aimed all his efforts on composing and playing a piano was just a tool he used alongside. He had an exceptional talent, but he wanted to enhance his composition skills and surely did so. His romantic touch combining with his grandoise compositions for piano have attracted many people durin his times and after his death. Unfortunately he was not very secure during the later stages in his life which led him to tour as a pianist as well. Honestly, purely as a listener, I am a little happy about this since otherwise we could never have listened the beauty of his talent directly from records. However that is the subject of another review.

Rachmaninov's four piano concertos are among the milestones of romantic era and almost signals the end of the era as well. Of course there is also a huge effort of Vladimir Ashkenazy who has studied these pieces for a very long time and totally absorbed the feeling thus passing them onto us. The reason to mention this is Rachmaninov having an extremely votile psychological state during his career was always heavily affected by his feelings. He always mentioned that he never wrote anything with planning nor tried to express something certain. He only wrote what he felt like exactly the he felt it. Result? Totally emotional pieces ranging from hatred to love, joy to pain, happiness to depression.

My favorite of his piano concertos has always been the second. On the other hand, I have had a deep admiration for his first as well. It was the first work that Rachmaninov felt ready to open up to the world and give an opus number. It is also interesting that he wrote the 2nd and 3rd movements of this concerto in two and a half days only.

In terms of performance, Ashkenazy is totally in control of the second concerto as it has been in his repertoire for a very long time. Previn was also very likened to this composition and the result is staggering. Yet, it is also worth to point out that they put a remarkable performance together with the London Symphony Orchesra on all four concertos. Rhapsody On A Theme Of Paganini is one of many transcriptions he has successfully brought up to life. Even Sutekh made a Micro House version of this transcription which was a beauty in itself.

This box set is a compilation of four records released priorly by Decca label. Due to the extremely thin covers of these records (I own two of the original releases and they are micro thin), this set gives a better preservation option to listen the original recordings with total reality. For any classic music lover who admires the romantic era, this work should sit near the turntable at all times for urgent cases where someone may feel too clustered by the cement blocks that surround us today.

To buy this record:

@ Music Stack
@ Ebay

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