Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Opus 30
Martha Argerich (piano)
Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra/Riccardo Chailly
Live Rec Dec 1982, Sender Freies Berlin
Suite No. 2 for 2 pianos, Opus 17
Martha Argerich, Nelson Freire (pianos)
Rec Aug 1982, Switzerland
Philips 464 732-2 (61.27)
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Rachmaninov's Third Concerto is one of the most challenging works of its kind, and challenging for all concerned: pianist, conductor, orchestra and audience. Not only does it require the usual balance of virtuosity, technique, rapport of ensemble and interpretation, it also demands concentration across a long time span of forty minutes, with musical development of veritably symphonic integration.

Since this is a live recording by one of the great pianists of recent times, it is a particularly interesting interpretation. And it is nothing if not compelling, with wonderful spontaneity of phrasing and that ebb and flow of tension and relaxation which is the preserve of only the greatest artists and the greatest music. In short, Martha Argerich demands to be heard in this music.

It is the finale where the performance burns most brightly, when the range of the musical invention is captured to the most compelling effect of all. All credit to the conductor, Riccardo Chailly, and his Berlin orchestra, in responding, so flexibly, to the soloist. It is a fine collaboration, driving through to an exhilarating, truly uplifting conclusion, crowning a performance in which the lyricism and the power of Rachmaninov's conception have been vividly drawn.

The recorded sound, trumpeted by Philips in the accompanying booklet, is certainly colourful and atmospheric. But I don't feel it's that good, overall. There are some odd balances in the first two movements, especially, and woodwind lines are not always clearly placed in the perspective. The piano fares best in terms of the sound, of course, but there are better recorded studio versions, in particular by Vladimir Ashkenazy. On the whole the audience is quite well behaved.

The Second Suite receives excellent recorded sound, in the studio this time. The performance has terrific attack and passion, and Freire and Argerich make an excellent team. Tempi seem ideally chosen, with real momentum but at the same time enough leeway to allow Rachmaninov's natural romanticism to shine through. The slow movement Romance is poetically drawn, and the final Tarantella reaches a marvellously full-toned and exciting climax.

The accompanying notes by Bryce Morrison, well written though they are, read more like a review - a eulogy in praise of Argerich's playing in the concerto - than an insert note. It seems a pity that there was not room for more information about the music.

Terry Barfoot

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