> Rachmaninov - Prokofiev [AAS]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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RACHMANINOV
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
PROKOFIEV
Piano Concerto no 3 in C minor
Mark Zeltser (piano)
Cologne Radio Symphony
Orchestra/Rudolf Barshai - Recorded in the Philharmonie, Cologne in 1999 (or possibly earlier)
LAUREL RECORDS LR-904 [55;15]

Laurel

Too often one has to complain about pianists who are speed-merchants; here, perhaps the opposite applies. The remarkable thing about this recording of the Paganini Variations is that it takes just over 25 minutes as opposed to the usual 21 or so – a big difference in a piece of this length. I say ‘perhaps’, for some listeners may warm to the deliberate tempi which Zeltser consistently opts for: they certainly allow every one of Rachmaninov’s numerous felicitous orchestral details to make their mark (as is not always the case). As against that, the faster variations lose something of their forward momentum (sample 1) while the slower variations are a touch languid (sample 2). But there’s a splendid eighteenth variation and the final dash for home is just as it should be.

Beautifully played and accompanied in a well-balanced (the piano mercifully not too forward) and spacious recording (as is that of the Prokofiev which follows).

The same deliberate approach to tempi also characterises Zeltser’s interpretation of the Prokofiev, though at 30 minutes – as opposed to the standard 27 minutes – the differential is here rather less noticeable. And here and there he does allow himself a little rush of blood. Occasionally the result of this steady-as-she-goes approach is stolid; on the other hand it pays off elsewhere, as in the second movement’s ‘misterioso’. Overall Zeltser’s robust approach to the finale is spot-on, and you couldn’t wish for a riper account of its ‘big tune’ and its reflective interludes. And he brings great panache to that wonderful hurtling coda.

Leaving questions of tempi aside, the most striking thing about this disc is Zeltser’s wonderfully clean and crisply articulated piano-playing, and this is the disc’s strongest recommendation. In addition, Barshai and his forces provide excellent and sympathetic accompaniments.

Adrian Smith


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