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Rachmaninov: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2
Sergey Rachmaninoff, Leif Ove Andsnes, Antonio Pappano
Rachmaninov: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (6) - Disc #1

Leif Ove Andsnes is a great pianist, equally at home in solo and chamber music, on stage and disc, in all styles and national idioms. His virtuosity is so unobtrusive, his control of touch and nuance so natural that the mu...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Sergey Rachmaninoff, Leif Ove Andsnes, Antonio Pappano, Berlin Philharmonic
Title: Rachmaninov: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2
Members Wishing: 1
Total Copies: 0
Label: EMI Classics
Original Release Date: 1/1/2005
Re-Release Date: 10/4/2005
Genre: Classical
Styles: Forms & Genres, Concertos, Instruments, Keyboard, Symphonies
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 724347481321

Leif Ove Andsnes is a great pianist, equally at home in solo and chamber music, on stage and disc, in all styles and national idioms. His virtuosity is so unobtrusive, his control of touch and nuance so natural that the music seems to flow through him directly to the listener. His runs have a brilliant, feathery delicacy, but are always part of the musical fabric; his chords are powerful but never harsh. He brings to the Rachmaninov concertos on this record not only romantic sweep, grandeur, vitality, and expressive freedom, but an almost classical purity of line and clarity of texture. Only a great pianist who knew every resource of his instrument could have written these concertos. Hearing them together illustrates why the Second is so much more popular than the First. Written ten years later after a triumphant recovery from depression, it is more cohesive, less episodic; the melodies are more ravishing, the harmonies more evocative; the music seems to pour out in an irresistible stream of inspiration. Andsnes brings out all the exuberance, passion, melancholy and exaltation without letting sentiment lapse into sentimentality; his tempi are judicious, his liberties balanced, his contrasts restrained; there is never a trace of excess. He gives this luxurious, easily exaggerated music a rare sense of nobility, dignity and refinement. The great Berlin Philharmonic revels in the lush, colorful orchestration without swamping the music or the soloist. --Edith Eisler

CD Reviews

Andsnes on top form, a superb coupling
Alexander Leach | Shipley, West Yorkshire United Kingdom | 10/12/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

After Andsnes' superb Grieg Concerto, also with the BPO (under Jansons rather than Pappano) I was anxious to hear this new recording, and was glad I did - it's excellent.
This CD comes into competition with Krystian Zimerman's recording of the same two concertos with Ozawa, released by DG last year. That version of the First was also extremely fine, but with a rather different interpretation. Zimerman's was fiery and intense (he explained in interviews at the time that these were youthful works and needed to explode - `you don't play the Rachmaninov concertos, you live them', I seem to recall). His playing was high voltage throughout whereas Andsnes, with no lack of fire, takes a more patrician approach which give just as fine rewards. Pappano gives superb support as well, this is very much a successful symbiosis, with the BPO playing like the great orchestra we know they are. This ranks alongside the greatest Firsts: the composer himself, Janis and Pletnev as well as Zimerman.

Also the DG recording was sharp-edged and intense, whereas this EMI disc is slightly mellower with the piano and orchestra wonderfully blended. I do prefer the piano sound here as well: it's rich and sounds beautiful, but is ideally focused as well. Some found the Zimerman `sound', coupled with his high octane pianism (electrifying though it is) tiring on the ear after a while.

Zimerman has often said that recording the sound of his playing is problematic; he hasn't made a solo recording for 10 years for this exact reason - which is perhaps one reason why sonic deficiencies all but wrecked his version of the Second, where the solo instrument is much too closely observed, giving a clattery feel to the performance, with every note audible.

No such problems here: recorded live in the Berlin Philharmonie, Andsnes' version of the Second is very enjoyable, full of wonderful touches from soloist, conductor and orchestra: the exciting climax and coda of the first movement are finely handled, while in the slow movement, slightly more flowing than normal, the collaboration between Andsnes and orchestral soloists (particularly the flute, presumably BPO Principal Emanuel Pahud, given fine presence) is gorgeous.

In the Finale's lovely second subject Pappano manages to impart some idiomatic Slavonic melancholy, if not quite as much as Ashkenazy when conducting for Helene Grimaud in her excellent version, which alongside this new Andsnes version is my favourite in digital sound. Also hear the brooding lower strings in the build up to the finale's climax which, as with Andsnes' Grieg, is played at full throttle but strictly `a tempo', with no playing to the gallery. Even so, they don't surpass Grimaud and Ashkenazy in sweep and power here. There is about 15 seconds of applause, not separately tracked.

If you've got Richter's classic account on DG, Grimaud on Teldec, and Andsnes in the Second, I think you've got all bases covered.

Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 12/28/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"When it comes to contemporary interpretations of these beloved Rachmaninov piano concerti there are options and choices: some will favor the opulently virtuosic jumping off the piano bench, heart on the sleeve, guaranteed standing ovation manner where pianist vies for attention with composer; some will prefer the musical elegance to the show biz glitz and find new threads of continuity forming from the musicality of less self-serving musicians. Leif Ove Andsnes clearly belongs more in the latter category.

That is not to say that the heart of the works is flat: quite the opposite. Andsnes plays with such virtuosity that his attention to line and detail allows each of the 'big moments' to develop intelligently, sensitively, and the result is even stronger payoffs. His tone is never forced or rushed and even in the most technically challenging measures of each work his ability to make every note available to the listener's ear is a feat accomplished by few others.

Anthony Pappano and the Berlin Philharmonic provide lush, powerful reinforcement of Andsnes' choices. The orchestra blooms when starred (some very fine first desk solos here!) and supports when the piano sings the melodies. Some would say this is a thinking person's Rachmaninov, but Andsnes appeals both to the mind and the heart in this warmly detailed reading of two old warhorses of concerti. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, December 05"
Refreshing, passionate, and unburdened!
cwb | Carmel, IN | 02/21/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"What a wonderful addition to the catalogue of Rachmaninov concertos! Leif Ove Andsnes has carefully considered the score and Rachmaninov's own recordings, and he manages to give a fresh and intimate reading of this much-celebrated music without overdoing every nuance and stretching every phrase. So many performances of these pieces want to tell you exactly how you should feel about this music; the emotions are often forced onto you. Here, though, the romance is more subtle and is found in beauty of natural phrasing, careful balance, and what I can only describe as personal storytelling. This performance would go well with the story of Romeo and Juliet-there is a youth and innocence, as well as passion and yearning. I am reminded that Rachmaninov composed this concerto when he was young.

Andsnes's technique is flawless, and he plays with a rare clarity that allows you to hear every single note. Each note is there for a purpose, and he has discovered how they each fit with one another in the larger picture (e.g., Track 4, 2:34). He also knows when and how to accompany the orchestra. Together, he and the Berlin Philharmonic, with its lush strings and gorgeous wind playing, make a wonderful partnership. The orchestra, under Antonio Pappano, is stunning and always engaged. The EMI engineering team gets credit for capturing all of the orchestra's many colors and subtleties. Unfortunately, it also captures some of the conductor's excessive breathing, but I think this is a very small price to pay for this stunning performance. The second concerto was recorded live, and the audience noise is minimal and unobtrusive throughout.

Overall, I have found this disc to be a great investment. Upon first hearing of this recording, you will discover parts in both the piano and orchestra that you had never heard before (e.g., listen to the string pizzicati that is usually covered up at Track 5, 2:01). Add that to the refreshing way Andsnes keeps the tempos flowing and manages to never lose a phrase with subtle rubato, and you have a reason to buy this recording even if you already own several. Highly recommended."