> Rachmaninov Piano Concertos Marshev [RB]: Classical CD Reviews- Aug 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)

Piano Concerto No. 1 (1891) [28.50]
Piano Concerto No. 2 (1901) [36.22]
Piano Concerto No. 3 (1909) [45.42]
Piano Concerto No. 4 (1927) [28.09]
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (1934) [26.35]
Oleg Marshev (piano)
Aarhus SO/James Loughran
rec: Frichsparken, Aarhus, May/Oct 2001 DDD
3 CDs for the price of 2
DANACORD DACOCD 582-583 [3CDs: 65.12+45.42+54.43]


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A glance at the Danacord website and catalogue will confirm that Marshev, who has already recorded the complete Prokofiev concertos for Jesper Buhl's label, is out to record a large slice of the neo-romantic repertoire. Just look at pages 16 and 17 of the booklet. Marshev has recorded the solo piano music of Emil von Sauer, Prokofiev, Pavel Pabst, and Richard Strauss. Quite apart from the Prokofiev there are piano concertos by Langgaard (Siegfried and Rued), Winding, Hartmann, Bendix, Schytte, Tchaikovsky (complete) , Shostakovich (complete) and Sauer.

The recording balance chosen by Danacord is big and bullish with the piano set unashamedly several feet in front of the orchestra. It reminded me of the old EMI Alexis Weissenberg recording of Tchaikovsky's First Concerto and the Decca Postnikova recording of the same work with the VSO and her husband Rozhdestvensky.

Marshev and Loughran take things with broad deliberation and emphasis as in the ‘clippity-clop’ Borodin-shadowed moments towards the end of the last movement of the First Concerto (6.34). Marshev really wallops the keyboard in the wide and woolly opening of the Second Concerto. Everything is contrived to bring out the weightiness of the music. This will not be for those who like their Rachmaninov fast, headstrong and mercurial. Marshev's is a big, romantic and muscular approach. Repose there is in plenty as in the romantic second movement of the Second Concerto. He is not so languid that he defuses the dramatics of the Allegro scherzando of No. 2 and it really works stunningly.

I have not stop-watched these times but taking the insert figures which usually include some silences we can make some intriguing comparisons:-
Marshev Composer Wild
1 28.50 24.33 24.10
2 36.22 32.17 30.23
3 45.42 34.02 35.18
4 28.09 24.14 22.57

Marshev’s and Loughran’s are statuesque interpretations in which the artists take their time. In the Rhapsody Marshev takes a full six minutes longer than Earl Wild (Chandos) and four minutes longer than the composer. Even allowing for the long original cadenza in the Third Marshev is very extended - even more so than Alicia de Larrocha whose Decca version ran to over 44.49 minutes. This takes idiosyncrasy out to the furthest reaches. Things self-centre at the wondrous pay-off at 13.19 - the stretching and glowing peak of the finale of the Third. Yes this reading can drift into the ponderous at times but there are grand rewards in the making of world enough and time to let Rachmaninov's music really tell.

The third disc has reminded me to pay tribute to the Danacord recording team of Lennart Dehn and Torbjörn Samuelsson who light the playing brightly but render with fidelity the silky violin tone of the Aarhus orchestra and the hammer-bass register of the piano. A lovely conjuring altogether. Try sampling the final movement of the Fourth Concerto. The last few bars illustrate the resilient precision of the coordination between orchestra and soloist - not to be taken for granted.

The notes, which ideally complement the recordings, are by Classical Music on the Web regular, Chris Howell.

The set has a very long playing time so much so that a third CD is required. However the standard 2 CD price is retained.

It is typical of Danacord's unselfish orientation that in the Aarhus orchestra discography at p.21 of the booklet they list product from DaCapo, Marco Polo, Kontrapunkt, ASV, Bis, Point and Olympia.

Jesper Buhl is also to be praised for his judicious use of silences between tracks. Some manufacturers are pretty abstemious in this respect and a rapid transition from movement to movement is usually undesirable.

Summing up: not a first choice unless you know already that your tastes run to the epic rather than immediacy, drive and pulsation. If you want the rush of adrenalin then go direct to Chandos CHAN 7114(2) and Earl Wild. Those recordings still sound excellent. If you would like a grandly expansive approach favouring the epic then look no further than the Danacord set.
Rob Barnett

Note from Danacord

It may interest you to know that James Loughran followed the original metronome markings in the scores! So Rachmaninov himself was under pressure (the 78 rpm playing time) when he recorded the concertos. Hopefully you also noted the wealth of orchestral details, something you do not normally hear in these concertos. And yes, - it is epic, - and Thank God for that!

Jesper Buhl, Danacord

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