Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No.1 is one of the best opus ones in the
business. It may lack the maturity of his later works but it has a drive and
vigour all of its own. In the first movement there is also a winning theme
that has that air of romantic yearning so closely associated with and
typical of the composer. That theme is played here in a slightly stilted
fashion by Costa but overall this is a version that crackles with life. The
level of virtuosity from the soloist is staggering and Seaman offers superb
orchestral support. It's a really exciting performance full of adrenalin and
swagger. Other versions may have more romance and poetry to the playing but
this one grabs the listener by the throat and in its own way it's rather
The Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
coupling presented here gains
enormously by not being too rhapsodic. The music keeps moving forward and
never sounds wayward or bogged down. The level of technical prowess is
notable and the most difficult passages sound effortless. The famous
variation never fails and it comes off very well here with
especially thrilling horns albeit a thin string sound in the top register.
This variation is followed by a headlong sprint to the finishing post that
leaves the listener breathless. It's highly charged stuff.
This is music-making that puts sparkle and clarity high on its agenda and
the recording suits it perfectly. The orchestra is in fine form and they
sound very committed and enthusiastic. The early 1990s digital sound is
close, clear and bright. Those who are looking for a lush romantic wash
should maybe steer clear of this. Others who prefer impact and presence and
like to hear all the inner details in digital clarity will be highly
impressed. It does sound thrilling.
The original CD issue of the First Piano Concerto was
by Ian Lace.
The CD sleeve is called Volume 1. All the reissues of Costa's complete
cycle of the Rachmaninov piano concertos - first issued on the RPO label -
are obviously on their way. This first CD is well worth hearing.