Friday, May 8, 2015

The Rachmaninoff Third Concerto - a Perspective Dealing With Three Pianists Who Have Dealt With It...

In the recordings made by many pianists of the Rachmaninoff 3rd Concerto during the past century, are there those under the age of thirty who were able to garner both the immense technical demands and the sublime message left us by the composer and give to us performances of historical import?
After a period of  my mulling over this question, there are three who come to mind.
In his first recording, Vladimir Horowitz was about 27 years of age when he performed  the  Concerto in England with the London Symphony Orchestra. It has been, and remains one of the most important recordings of this or any concerto. There are those who still consider this early Horowitz performance one of the top recordings of the 20th century. For me, that unique neurotic edge  Horowitz had always been known for gives this particular reading a sense of unremitting thrust and direction, in fusion with the colors the young lion  from Mother Russia was capable of bringing into being. For me, this first (1930, as I recall,} of the several recordings  Horowitz  produced of this work, was his best.
Byron Janis studied almost four years with Horowitz, and enjoyed a meteoric career until, sadly, a form of arthritis devastated a kind of promise given to so few. Janis did resume his career; however, those early recordings form a document of  unparalleled promise, let alone worldwide acclaim . The word from the French; namely 'eclat,'  best describes, for me,  Byron Janis in his Rachmaninoff. The bursts of dizzying passage work and absolutely delicious forming and consummation of phrase after phrase, especially in the first movement, make for an unforgettable performance by one in his twenties.
The Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes was, I believe, only about 23 when he recorded the 3rd Concerto for the first time. What he was able to capture and share with us is a truly unique reading  by a superior intellect and artist, let alone a pianist with a mammoth technique. For me, the one great uniqueness Andsnes possesses, in his playing of the Romantics, is the ability, time after time, to evoke a combination of intense beauty in his expressions without a trace of sentiment - I do not recall ever experiencing this in any musician I have ever heard.
Whether you agree, or not, with my choices; do listen to these three.



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