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David Helfgott Plays Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 3; Four Preludes; Sonata No. 2
Sergey Rachmaninov, Milan Horvat, Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra
David Helfgott Plays Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 3; Four Preludes; Sonata No. 2
Genre: Classical
 
  •  Track Listings (10) - Disc #1

This is perhaps the most famous recording ever made of Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto, and probably the worst. Poor David Helfgott, who may have been a great virtuoso before his well-publicized mental breakdown, can b...  more »

      
   
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Amazon.com
This is perhaps the most famous recording ever made of Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto, and probably the worst. Poor David Helfgott, who may have been a great virtuoso before his well-publicized mental breakdown, can barely hack his way through this concerto. Perhaps the cruel practice of issuing a live performance recording spares the expense of endless retakes, but it also exposes the pianist's severe deficiencies. The studio-recorded solo pieces are played accurately, perhaps due to endless retakes, but they are so devoid of musical impulse that Helfgott sounds as though he's on heavy tranquilizers. Try Alexis Weissenberg's version of the Rach 3 (RCA Victor Gold Seal 09026-61693-2), or anybody's. --Leslie Gerber

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CD Reviews

Sad performances from a sad (and now seemingly gone from the
John Grabowski | USA | 03/23/2000
(1 out of 5 stars)

"It's truly sad the number of people here who say they never tried classical music before, but were "turned on" by the Shine movie and this recording. Really great artists are releasing brilliant recordings into the vacuum of public notice every day, and something like this piece of garbage comes along and is hoisted to Classical's Top Ten. All because the people who are weeping over Helfgott and his semi-autobigraphical yarn have never heard classical music before, as they even state in their reviews, but feel compelled, after one listen to one piece by one pianist, to tell the world what a "genius" he is. If they would go out and buy a second CD, one by an artist and not a sideshow talent, they wouldn't be "amazed" and "moved" by this recording, which is not even "amateurish," as someone described it. (An amateur is merely someone who isn't paid money; Mr Helfgott was paid money, and amateurs can play rings around him. He plays passages with utter brittleness, is all over the place with dynamics, and doesn't seem to have a sense of what the music is about--ie, how to build coherently, how to highlight the architecture of the works. To make things worse, often he can't keep up with the orchestra--and the orchestra itself is not very good, by the way. In the Rachmaninoff Sonata he falls apart and simply cannot play the notes. Listen to Zoltán Kocsis if you want a jaw-dropping performance of this work. In fact, just listen to Helfgott's three samples here, and then go to Kocsis' CD of the same work and listen to his samples of almost the same segments. The difference should immediately silence any debate as to whether Helfgott can even competently play the material.

A third year Julliard or Curtis student couldn't get a passing grade turning in a performance like this, let alone a record contract and sold-out performances at Carnegie.) Shame on Gillian Helfgott, David's exploitative partner in this crime. Shame on the producers, both movie and record, for claiming Shine is the story of a destroyed virtuoso who comes back in triumph. The real life story not quite as tremendous, and Helfgott was nothing extraordinary before his breakdown, nor was his repertoire choice of the "Rach 3" all that daring for a young pianist: many of them cut their teeth on it every year. But mostly shame on the public, for being so woefully musically ignorant that they do not notice complete musical incompetence when they hear it.

When Helfgott performed in New York's Carnegie Hall during his "comeback" tour, Isaac Stern was among those in the audience. At intermission he was seen hastily leaving. A newspaper music reviewer shouted to him, asking what he thought of the performance. "No comment" was his only reply.

No stars for this, although Amazon's software forced me to put in one."
It doesn't get much worse than this
Hank Drake | Cleveland, OH United States | 03/12/2000
(1 out of 5 stars)

"This is the worst recording of the Rachamninoff Third Concerto I have ever heard (and I have heard about 25 of them.) The most charitable adjectives I can summon for this performance are hazy amd heavily medicated. I have nothing but sympathy for the trials Mr. Helfgott has had to endure, but I have even even greater sympathy for far more talented musicians who are trying to break into this difficult profession--only to have their hard work usurped by a cinematic sob story. If you want to hear a great Rachmaninoff Third, try Horowitz/Ormandy, Horowitz/Reiner, or Rachmaninoff/Ormandy. Helfgott plays the revised version of the Rachmaninoff Second Sonata. If this is the version you prefer, I suggest Thibaudet's fine performance on Decca. Personally, I feel that the revised version is too condensed (Rachmaninoff felt this way also, and allowed Vladimir Horowitz to create a combination of the original and revised versions). Both the 1968 Sony (lithe, pantherlike, and in excellent sound) and the 1980 RCA (brooding, with closely miked sound) Horowitz versions are my top picks for this work. Helfgott's 15 minutes are over, let's just let these unfortunate recordings rest in peace."
Unbalanced, Very strange.
Sen Peng Eu | Kaohsiung, Taiwan | 06/25/2000
(2 out of 5 stars)

"What I got when I listened to this disc is that during the hearing I got very, very much worried about that whether he could complete the whole work or not. It sounds very unbalanced and strange. There is no logical sense of the interpretation, no structural feeling. I'm very impressed by David's story, but music is music, I must say sorry."