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An Epic Narrative: Boris Giltburg plays Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto no. 3

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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Related discussions in Piano Forum


Sheet music to download and print

Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto 3 Op. 30 in D Minor

Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto 3


/patrick
 
     

Powerful Leif Ove Andsnes Plays Rach 3

LIMITED AVAILABILITY

Available only until May 12, the Swedish Television offers a live HD performance of Sergei Rachmaninov´s third Piano Concerto with pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and conductor Lionel Bringuier as of February 20, 2009.

Content:
0:00 Introduction (in Swedish)
1:10 Alex Wade introduces Rach 3 and talks to Jonathan Philips
9:44 Interview with Leif Ove Andsnes (in Swedish) See summary in English below.
14:00 Live performance of the piano concerto

Click here to veiw the TV broadcast online.


Summary of interview with Leif Ove Andsnes

In the interview, the producer Camilla Lundberg asked Andsnes why he returned to the work after 15 years.
He first played and recorded it when he was only 24 years old, as his first Rachmaninov concerto.
Andsnes stated that the work defines crucial currents of modernity in the 20th century and therefore it has a special compositional and romantic quality. Having spent so much time with it, and when coming back to it with a new “bird perspective”, he felt that the contrasts and eruptive qualities of the piece should be more accentuated, which motivated him to have a second round with it. He also said that he found it unfortunate that the popularity of the film “Shine” led to the common notion that this concerto is nothing but a gladiator game.

One hundred years ago the work was premiered with Rachmaninov himself at the piano and Gustaf Mahler as conductor. History tells us how serious Mahler was in his work with the score and during rehersals. Andsnes considers this to be one of the moments in music history he would give anything to have experienced.


Rachmaninoff in action

Rachmaninoff in action

Being fortunate enough to have spent a lengthy preparation period (five years) with Rach 3 during the 1990s, I agree with the popular metaphorical statement that this concerto is a serious attempt to climb K2.
After deciphering the most economical ways of moving (including intelligent fingering), I spent enormous amount of time on finding full sound easiness in the musical lines. This work also demands a very conscious idea of what to be audible in sections where the piano and orchestra share the musical energy.
The access to a large number of recordings was very helpful in this respect and I found the Horowitz/Ormandy collaboration and the Ashkenazy/Fistoulari particularly helpful in building the tutti soundscapes of the grand piano sound in the grand romantic orchestra.


/patrick
 
     



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