> Rachmaninov - Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 4 [RB]: Classical CD Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in F sharp minor (1891) [25.20]
Piano Concerto No. 4 in G minor (1926) [25.43]
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini [21.52]
Philippe Entremont (piano)
Philadelphia Orchestra/Eugene Ormandy
rec Town Hall, Philadelphia 24 Feb 1963 (1); 2 Nov 1961 (4); Broadwood Hotel, Philadelphia (Paganini) 1 Feb 1958. ADD


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All the usual Ormandy-Philadelphia hallmarks are there to be heard in the coupling. Unblushing portamenti (just a hint but a noticeable hint), opulence of string tone, romantic inclination and the virtuosity of a world-class orchestra in full flight.

Rachmaninov idolised Tchaikovsky and that is pretty much to the fore in the First Concerto even after the extensive revision carried out in 1917 between the Third and Fourth Concertos. Of course other voices put in an appearance and every time I hear the finale with its flourish and panache at 00.21 I wonder if the composer had heard Elgar's Second Symphony. This is a work heavily influenced not only by Tchaikovsky 1 but also by the Grieg and Schumann. The Fourth is a favourite of mine but Entremont and Ormandy most of the time take it at far too syrupy a pace presumably in the interests of point-making. Either the classic Michelangeli (EMI), the Earl Wild (Chandos) or the spanking new Danacord set with Oleg Marshev will give a better impression of a work which deserves to be better known.

The Rhapsody is the oldest recording here. In fact the recordings gather hiss like moss as you progress from the first concerto to the fourth and to the Rhapsody. This famous work is taken at a cracking pace (4.40 and 7.01) and overall this is a very strong account in which inspiration and delicacy run strong and deep. I shall return to this again.

The two concertos are not as stirringly imaginative as they can be in other hands. The Rhapsody is outstanding and I recommend it wholeheartedly.


Rob Barnett

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