"This is great music, with outstanding performances, at a great price.Seriously, the superb St. Louis forces on two well-packed discs for cheap?? Abbey is no Horowitz or Janis, but he is a sensitive musician with a beautiful touch and give haunting renditions of these works. Even though there are more thrilling 3rds out there, I find this one staying with me. The contribution by the St. Louis Symphony is exceptional, outshining a lot of the bigger orchestras: they bring freshness, stunning discipline, positively glowing string tone, and make music with Simon, not just accompany him. I guess I'd best sum up this recording as one to cozy up to rather to put me through the emotional treadmill. Both kinds of performances are necessary in my collection!"
Great inexpensive recording
Gregory M. Zinkl | 10/21/1998
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of the best recorings for the money I have heard. Abbey Simon is a great pianist. I am sure it is not the best quality recording on the market but it is great for the price!!!"
Stunning! Simon & the St. Louis Symphony shine.
G. Stewart | Chesapeake, VA USA | 01/04/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I must admit, based on the reviews I read on Amazon, that I knew that I was taking a chance when I ordered this set. The gamble paid off. I cannot, for the life of me, understand the complaints or the 3 star rating. Perhaps someone knows of better recordings, so I can accept 4 star ratings. But, to me, the recording is bright and without blemish, and the music is astounding; a 5 star effort in every way.
The performances: Abbey Simon, on piano, plays these concerti as if he had written them himself, his passion is unparalleled; the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, which I have never before heard perform, play beautifully, majestically meeting Simon's virtuoso performance; Leonard Slatkin, the conductor, obviously cared a great deal about the performance and leads a marvelous and respectful treatment of Rachmaninoff's works for piano and orchestra.
This double disc is a voxbox 'cheapie', but the clarity of sound, the exquisite work of the orchestra and the authoritative handling of Rachmaninoff's piano work are superb at least. Originally recorded between 75 & 77, this is a wonderful reproduction from the "original analog tapes" (according to the liner notes).
Rachmaninoff was a gifted pianist and composer. Granted, the classical radio stations overplay pieces such as the 18th variation from "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini", but this should not detract from his innate ability to compose works of sheer brilliance, melodic beauty, harmonious loveliness.
I can only be thankful that early reviews of his music were wrong: 'Introduction to Twentieth Century Music' published in 1961 stated that "Rachmaninov has no proper place in a book on contemporary music", how ridiculous, how absurd; the supposed definitive musical reference, 'The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians' stated in it's 5th edition, published in 1954, that Rachmaninoff's music "was monotonous in texture" and that it consisted "mainly of artificial and gushing tunes", and then went so far as to prognosticate that his music was "not likely to last", how utterly daft 'experts' can be. But dear Rachmaninoff is now greatly appreciated and his presence in the tomes of classical music remains steady.
This volume contains all 4 of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concertos and his 'Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini' which, most commonly known for the 18th variation (abused on film, tv and radio), is actually a stunning piece comprising 24 variations that stretch 23+ minutes. This piece could have been a Piano Concerto as the variations can be split in to three distinct movements (I - through variation XI, II - through variation XVIII, and III - through the final variation), but I believe Rachmaninoff wanted to remain true to his inspiration, Nicolo Paganini's 'Caprice No. 24 in A minor', thus the title; the piece is sublime. All four concertos and 'Rhapsody' are individual in their composition and style; none even remotely resembling another. All are marvelous, and to live without hearing all four is to cheat oneself of musical genius, in my ever so humble opinion.
I have several recordings of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concertos and his 'Rhapsody' and this is equal or better in every aspect.
I highly recommend this recording!"
Randal Gerdes | Jonesboro, Arkansas United States | 01/07/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This album remains in print for all these years for one reason, it is great. And yes the Saint Louis Symphony is great. I own many versions of this work and this one is in my top 2.
A Must-Buy for any Rachmaninoff fan
Michael Travis | chicago, il | 01/09/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"From a huge Rachmaninoff fan, this is the best CD in my catalog. All of the 'legendary' recordings of his concertos by Horowitz, Argerich, Rubinstein, etc. have moments and passages that are simply incredible and awe-inspiring, but unfortunately they also each lack in other places. This collection, on the other hand, is remarkably consistent in its excellence. Abbey Simon's accuracy is unbeatable and his proficiency is vastly underrated. The Orchestra does a fine job keeping up and neither party ever overpowers the other--they're both always intertwined in perfect harmony.
I really don't know why this CD is so cheap...there's no catch. Simon's performance doesn't hold quite the fanfare of Horowitz's Rach 3 finales, but he plays the piece just as the composer intended, with little to no painful new interpretation.
If you're trying to build a classical music library or are a lifelong Rach fan, do yourself a favor and acquire this CD."