Named the Mount Everest of piano concertos, Rachmaninoff’s third has enjoyed an increasing popularity among performers, piano competition contestants and in concert halls during the last twenty years. Also among recording labels where the long list of recordings now is expanded by contributions by a younger generation of top artists.
Since Horowitz’s recordings of the concerto set a standard for its overall interpretational conception, many claim that renditions today overlook Rachmaninoff’s original intentions which we all can listen to in his own recordings from 1935 and 1940. Not least, the composer’s tempi and ideas on dramatic culminations.
A Touching Attitude
The story tells that Gustav Mahler, who conducted the second performance of the concerto with Rachmaninoff himself in New York City, touched the composer’s heart straight away by devoting himself to the concerto until the complicated accompaniment had been practiced to the point of perfection, although he had already gone through a long rehearsal.
According to Mahler, every detail of the score was important which was an an attitude which was rare among conductors. Rachmaninoff found this very touching.
A Sensitive New Release
One of the latest Rach 3 releases – and our recommendation – is by the Queen Elisabeth Competition winner, pianist Boris Giltburg with Royal Scottich National Orchestra under Carlos Miguel Pietro on the Naxos label (2018). As opposed to the strong formal structure of composition which the second concerto displays, the third is much more a “give and take” game which reminds us of the marvels of chamber music and with sharing motifs, melodies and sections between the movements. Thus, Giltburg’s reading is a sensitive and attending one, where the soloist shares material with the orchestra leaning on a strong communicative base rather than muscular bombasm. The lyrical passages are beautifully shaped and exquisitely articulated with the aid of the sonorous sound of the Fazioli grand used in this recording.
“… a narrative tapestry of such richness and variety that it seems to me to rival that of a great novel. The concerto’s length and scope allow it to explore a broad musical terrain, with many digressions and subplots woven into the main narrative.”
— Boris Giltburg on Rachmaninoff’s 3rd piano concerto
The album is coupled with the composer’s Corelli Variations Op. 42. Rachmaninoff himself had doubts about this composition and he often left out variations during his own performances according to the audiences’ reactions. However, it displays the ingenious composer’s handicraft in turning a simple baroque melody into a richly woven pattern of original ideas reflecting the composer’s compound compositional world. Arguably a study work as these variations were followed in a few years by another set of variations – the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43.
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