> Rachmaninov Piano concertos, Paganini Moiseiwitsch 8110676 [JW]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Piano Concerto No 1 +
Piano Concerto No 2 *
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini #

Benno Moiseiwitsch (piano)
Philharmonia Orchestra +
Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra * #
Malcolm Sargent conductor +
Walter Goehr conductor *
Basil Cameron conductor #
Recorded between 1937 and 1948
NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.110676 [78.12]


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It’s extraordinary now to think of a time when a critic (it was Andrew Porter) could call Moiseiwitsch "a neither here nor there artist." The underestimation and neglect – if not outright contempt - into which his career sank in some quarters should be a constant reproach to jaded critics bored with a familiar and ageing name. One of the very greatest of Leschitizky’s pupils, his recordings are amongst the most rewarding legacies of the piano heritage.

In the First Concerto Moiseiwitsch’s tonal bloom and lyricism flood the music with allure. Dynamism is never in short supply either and he allies a varied rhythmic palette with a singing legato and superb passagework to provide a distinguished reading, worthy of comparison with Rachmaninov’s own recording. The youthful Philharmonia is sharply led by Sargent, a one-time Moiseiwitsch pupil. In the second concerto his octave passage in the first movement is splendidly realised, his rubato of complex subtlety, his inner voicings of rare imagination and everywhere his tone sings ardently but with eloquent control. His colourist genius is shown in the Rhapsody, a performance preferable to his later traversal, in which impetuosity and scintillating accuracy fuse united in common accord. The contours of the music are shaped with unerring judgement, phrasing is very special, balance between the hands is carefully organised, inner voicings brought out, with the left hand bringing out details often overlooked or submerged.

Transfers are generally good as are the notes. Stellar performances then and a necessary purchase, even if you have Moiseiwitsch’s re-makes.

Jonathan Woolf

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