Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873 - 1943)
Piano Concerto No 4 in G Minor. Op. 40 [27.46]
Paganini Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra in A Minor. Op. 43
Four Piano pieces. Op. 1 [14.08]
Piotr Dimitriev (piano)
Russian Philharmonic Orchestra
Samuel Friedmann (conductor)
Recorded June 1998 Russian Broadcasting Studios, Moscow.
ARTE NOVA 74321 72108 2
Rachmaninov's Fourth Piano Concerto has never been a critical or a box-office
success. It is seldom recorded and is not heard frequently on the concert
platform - certainly not compared with others in the cycle. Its appearance
on this new all-Rachmaninov release helps to show why. The composer is not
to everyone's taste - he is sometimes found too extravagant, too opulent
- but even detractors will concede that he can write a good tune - something
that is noticeably missing from this work. The slow movement is the obvious
place to look for such a thing but the Largo is sadly lacking in an
attractive melody - the nearest we get is a deviant "Two lovely black eyes".
It is essentially for those who enjoy bravura pianism with lots of splendid
flourishes and lush orchestral support. The concerto's history tells of a
composition that was felt to be over-long, subsequently much tinkered with
and shortened to its present length. Its lineage is unmistakable - a few
bars from almost anywhere in the first movement will confirm it - but it
seems to drift with little sense of purpose and direction.
The jump to the marvellously varied and dynamic Paganini Rhapsody
is entering another world. Here is Rachmaninov in inspired form with his
24 variations on the Paganini snippet. There are a number of splendid recordings
of this work extant - a personal favourite is the Ashkenazy / Previn version
on Decca (with two dual career performers I should point out that Ashkenazy
is the soloist) and this latest version is a worthy addition to the field.
Dmitriev is another of these young performers who seem to be appearing so
regularly these days. Clearly he is gifted with a splendid technique and
brings out the contrasts in the variations. This is a young man's performance,
high-voltage,muscular and with tremendous attack when called for - the Dies
Irae quotations making a chilling impact - while the radiant eighteenth
variation showing the pianist's softer side with a delightful lightness of
touch. The Russian Philharmonic (a recording unit, perhaps?) under Friedmann
give splendidly vigorous support and the recording throughout is clear and
The Four Piano Pieces are student works from the composer's teens.
Written for solo piano they are short, attractive pieces worth an occasional
airing. The Third in particular (Andante) has a wistful appeal.
On a bargain label this disc is well worth investigating. The
Variations in particular will almost certainly please.