Here is a re-release
of a fifteen year old recording that caused something of a
stir when it first came out. The publicity quotes various
reviews from the time containing words like “stunning”. This
is an appropriate metaphor, for if any living organism got
between Jorge Luis Prats and his keyboard it would certainly
end up stunned. The Cuban pianist is a hard hitter. The result
is a rendering of the Second Concerto of exceptional
power and energy.
What makes this
performance particularly successful is that conductor Bátiz
and his orchestra are 100% on board with the interpretation.
The orchestra matches the pianist in panache and, when it
comes to slow, romantic passages, which are usually played
with a degree of mannered rubato, pianist and orchestra are
as one. The string tone is thinner than that of orchestras
on many other recordings, but maybe that is no bad thing,
for a lush tone would only emphasise romantic indulgence.
To what extent
you might be able to live with this CD as your only recording
of these works is a matter of taste. Some may find the romantic
parts just too much of a good thing. A good example is in
the most famous of the Paganini Variations. This really
is pulled about in a manner bordering on sentimentality but
it is done with conviction. Perhaps more on the down-side
is that the serious, contemplative side of the music is not
brought out so well. There is a dark side to the Rachmaninov
personality that is present even in these relatively extrovert
works. After all, the composer was only just recovering from
a nervous break-down when he wrote the Second Concerto.
of great range that combine passion with integrity and sensitivity,
Stephen Hough’s recording, released last year on Hyperion
(together with the other three concertos), is hard to beat.
My verdict would
be that for those who would like a steady, balanced approach
these full-frontal performances may be just a bit too much.
But it you have another recording to satisfy that condition,
this one is worth having on the shelf for a quick fix now
It has the advantage
of being a good bargain and the recorded sound is excellent,
adding to the power of the performances.