Saturday, July 23, 2011

Two Pianists; a Perspective on Rachmaninoff's Third...

As I have written in a previous blog, a famous encounter in New York took place in 1928 between the legendary pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff and the 24 year - old sensation from Mother Russia, Vladimir Horowitz, resulting in that famous exclamation by Rachmaninoff after his hearing Horowitz play his 3rd Concerto; namely, "He swallowed my Concerto whole!"
And the fact that Rachmaninoff himself disdained from playing his 3rd for nearly a decade because of the Horowitz incarnation - well, the first of several recordings that Horowitz made of this great Concerto was in 1930 in London, with Albert Coates and the London Philharmonic. One critic called this performance "one of the hundred great recordings."
For me, I carried around the conviction that this recording of the 3rd was the greatest ever made by a pianist not yet thirty(Horowitz was 26 or 27 at the time). I did not know of anyone in his twenties who could equal the conceptual, let alone technical power of the Horowitz reading.
And I kept this conviction most of my career; that is, until in 1996, as I remember, I heard a 25 year - old pianist overwhelm me with a reading of this behemoth that was absolutely redolent with an intellectual and technical display that, for me, undermined my generations - long conviction about the Horowitz recording made so long ago.
To encapsulate, I placed both recordings back - to - back on one CD; the result being that Leif Ove Andsnes, the acclaimed Norwegian pianist, and Vladimir Horowitz, the 20th century giant from Mother Russia are, for me, the two pianists in their twenties who stand alone in their youth as the two who give more to this Concerto than any other not yet thirty.
See (or hear!) if you agree...

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