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CD Review

Sergei Rachmaninoff

Naxos 8.110601

Piano Concertos

  • Piano Concerto #2, Op. 18 * (1900)
  • Piano Concerto #3, Op. 30 (1909)
Sergei Rachmaninoff, piano
* Philadelphia Orchestra/Leopold Stokowski
Philadelphia Orchestra/Eugene Ormandy
Naxos 8.110601
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Naxos 8.110602
  • Piano Concerto #1, Op. 1 (1891)
  • Piano Concerto #4, Op. 40 (1926)
  • Rhapsody of a Theme of Paganini Op. 43 * (1934)
Sergei Rachmaninoff, piano
* Philadelphia Orchestra/Leopold Stokowski
Philadelphia Orchestra/Eugene Ormandy
Naxos 8.110602
Find it at AmazonFind it at Amazon UKFind it at Amazon GermanyFind it at Amazon CanadaFind it at Amazon FranceFind it at Amazon Japan

"GROC", etc. Are the lines today. The "Great" this and that of the century. Some of it seems absurd, like André Previn as pianist. On the other hand, if anything is deserving of the accolade, these recordings are. If I favor those accompanied by Stokowski you will likely understand. If you know these works at all, you probably know of these recordings and may have the RCA incarnations in your collection already. If you are just learning the works and have heard one or two stereo recordings, you reeeeaaallly need to get these and listen to them as only the composer could do them.

Now, the reeeaaaal question is, if you already have the RCA set should you duplicate it with the Naxos releases? In a word: yes. The sound is so different that it is almost as if they are different recordings. I am not going to necessarily weigh in favor of one over the other; rather, it is a difference in kind and not degree. I find the piano sound more natural and full in the Naxos releases. There are details I do not hear as clearly in the RCA remasterings; even the composer's little pinky finger filigrees are lovely and clear. There is more surface hiss, but no pops or clicks. The bass line in the Naxos recordings is also a little more definite. The RCA set was remastered by Ward Marston, these latest discs are the product of Mark Obert-Thorn, "Tranferguy" himself! Stokowski often said that music was much more than black marks on white paper. What is interesting in comparing the two sets is that the transfer process used has produced an opportunity to learn how that process, in itself, can transform a performance. That is, a recording is more than 1's and 0's.

Well, short and sweet. These great recordings, among the greatest of the century, are highly recommended if you can find them. I mention that because of copyright reasons Naxos did not initially make them available in this country (it took me weeks of dunning Josh Cheek, at Naxos, before I got some copies). I have been told that some people have seen copies in Tower's import bins, and they have since become generally available in this country.

Copyright © 1999, Robert Stumpf II

Trumpet