Rerurn to Romy the Cat's Site

Musical Discussions
Topic: The today’s take on Rachmaninoff’s Third.

Page 1 of 1 (2 items)

Posted by Romy the Cat on 09-22-2009

 Romy the Cat wrote:

Gieseking with Barbirolli in 1939 is a phenomenal performance.

Gavrilov with Lazarev recording from 1977 is superb performance as well.

Horowitz with Reiner in 1951 did a very good job, but it is kind of the Horowitz’s “freaky” things….

Earl Wild with Horenstein in 1966 did wonderfully and the Reader Digest flavored it with superb Sound quality.

Rachmaninoff himself with Ormandy is very fine performance that should not be overlooked. Phenomenal and very different play!

Janis with Dorati is an outstanding performance…

…a “different”, not to say “bizarre” but in many way unique… live performance on Franz Vorraber with Philharmonic Orchestra of Wurzburg under the conducting of Daniel Klajner….

There are many more, in fact hundreds, but the above would be some of the Creme de la Creme of the Rachmaninoff’s Theird..

A site visitor sent me today a new performance of Rachmaninoff’s Third. It is Andrey Nikolsky played with The National Orchestra of Belgium. The conductor is Georges Octors and the performance took place during the Queen Elisabeth international music competition in 1987. It was very limited pressing and it looks it is imposable to find the CD nowadays.

Listening Nikolsky I would confirm that it is a very good play. Nikolsky plays a horribly sounding instrument and the Belgium orchestra did piss-poor job but the Nikolsky was fine. However, it brings to the question – what might be considered as “fine” in playing of the Rachmaninoff’s Third concerto?

Here is good list of many recording of the third foe whoever is interesting:

I own a ton of Rachmaninoff’s Third recordings and I heard even more. I heard many times it live. I think I kind of know the concert. It is very popular and it is being played very regularly. There is fashion nowadays to plays the alternative slow version of the first cadenza and I think it is good – I like the alternative better. Still, I kind of feel that the more I listen the new versions of Rach 3 the more I am getting bored. It is not the music makes me bored but rather these many virtually similar faceless renderation of the Rachmaninoff’s concerto makes me fed up.

Most of the Rachmaninoff’s Third players converted the concerto into some kind of so popular on US stupid multiple chose test that they are trying to pass. The flawless play, with no phonetic mistakes and with more or less proper phasing, becomes a definition of successful play. Sure the “test is passed” and the pianists and the audiences put one more notch in their logs but the question is – why was it necessary to play/record  ANOTHER version if the Rachmaninoff’s Third if the given version said absolutely nothing new nether about the concert nor about the pianist personal ability to say anything new?

Rostropovich after he heard the Du Pre’s version of Edgar Concerto stopped play it and reportedly wiped out own Edgar recordings stating that the there is nothing further that might be expressed in Edgar Concerto. Agree you with him or not but if he felt that Du Pre’s vision of the Concerto was very close to his own vision then I very much understand what he did. Do the people who play and record more and more Rachmaninoff’s Third feel that they are trying something different?  If so then I do not hear it and what I see is just a chain of cookie-cutter Rachmaninoff’s Third. Yes, some of them are better technically or by many other categories that a performance might be judged. Most of them are lacking the life inside itself. It is like the battle scène of the Tchaikovsky Nutcracker. Neither the Nutcracker nor the mice he fought with do not exist and the come alive only during the play of the music – the really the ruthlessness of the fight is born by the performing efforts. It is only up to the artist if the Nutcracker’s fight would have the melancholy of the trench war during the WW1 or the ferocity of the Kursk battle. It is all app to the performing intentions!  And if the performing intentions are juts to pass the “Rachmaninoff’s Third Test” or to use the box-office publicity of the concerto then I think the result is very predictable… but very unfortunate.

It shall be some kind of spark in the play, the spark that is lighten up but the personally of the performers. Otherwise what is the purpose to more and more recordings of the same empty play… Yes, the flawless play might be interesting but is it enough reason to celebrate a performance?

The Cat

Posted by Paul S on 09-22-2009
I could think of a list of these sorts of programs that seemingly every aspiring musician must prove him/herself with.  Also, there is a very tough, resiliant layer of suck-up "critics" that gush in chorus whenever "big name" or "future big-name" artists and ensembles perform or record any of these pieces.

And the various interpretation-du-Jour cycles seem to recur periodically.  For example, apparently I was not alone in listening to Rachmaninoff play his own work.  It seems like his rather "eliptical" take on the piece was subsequently "copied" and exaggerated by new waves of musical aspirants looking for a "genuine" interpretation.

At least some of these trophy pieces are actually great music, and fortunately there are actually some fine performances of these pieces.

Paul S

Page 1 of 1 (2 items)