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Topic: Rachmaninoff plays Rachmaninoff  (Read 3440 times)

Offline stokes

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Rachmaninoff plays Rachmaninoff
on: November 02, 2001, 05:47:44 AM
Hi Guys!
I guess all of you have heard any of the "Rachmaninoff plays Rachmaninoff" recordings... I know many of them, and in general he plays his own music a lot faster than other pianists do, as you know.... For example, compare his recordings of the piano concertos. Specially the 2nd one, with any of the famous Richter recordings. It's a huge difference in tempo. Richter plays it so much slower and we all love his recordings of it. Today nobody dares to do it that slow, though, even though they like it, but you for sure don't hear anyone play it as fast as Rachmaninoff does. Why don't people agree with the composer? I'm not only talking about the concertos, but all of his recordings. He created the music but nobody seems like they want to play it the way he does, even though they like the way he plays it......

Offline martin_s

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Re: Rachmaninoff plays Rachmaninoff
Reply #1 on: November 02, 2001, 10:11:40 AM
Well, there is just one thing to say.
"Fortunately Rachmaninoff recorded all of his pianoconcertos, unfortunately nobody listens to it" (or something like that is what G. Sandor said in a TV interwiev)

In my opinion, what I find in the Rachmaninoff's recordings of his own works is just that most of the time he seems to just do pretty much exactly what's in the score so therefore I guess you should trust him that he actually really knew what he was doing - in both composing and playing!

As far as the actual recordings go I simply LOVE them!!! Since I first came across them I have hardly wanted to listen to any other recordings of Rachmanioff's music.

Offline stokes

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Re: Rachmaninoff plays Rachmaninoff
Reply #2 on: November 03, 2001, 10:26:41 AM
The thing is, as I got it, that people do listen to the Rachmaninoff recordings, and most people do like them, but nobody plays the music like he does anyway. I love these recordings, but I just wouldn't feel comfortable playing it like that myself....
One thing that is true though is that people don't talk much about these recordings today.

Offline Osqar

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Re: Rachmaninoff plays Rachmaninoff
Reply #3 on: November 03, 2001, 04:14:53 PM
The question maybe should be brught a bit further. Is it always preferable to play a composers (and in this indeed very interesting case Rachmaninov) music the way he/she did played it him/herself?
Maybe it depends on if you look at a piece as a fixed form of art and the composers untouchable vision, or more as a kind of living and changing expression where the pianist creates the music, and the actual unique piece, in the moment of performance?
I myself wonīt choose side here, and I think no one not completely rigid will agree a little bit with both statements.

However..... I think thereīs  sometimes just a bit too much focus on the composer-did-that-and-thought-that-and played-that. It tends to be at bit limiting. Music is a living form of art, and since most of the composers (some 20th century excluded) in their writing not give us all the information possible ("hmmm should I play this melody by Chopin f or just a cantabile mf??"), they themselves gave the amnesty. The pianist should be an artist too!

In how many different shapes have we not seen Shakespeare? Itīs still Shakespeare, and itīs still genious.
Why not then just listen to a couple of hundred recordnings of Rach 2? And just enjoy!

Offline martin_s

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Re: Rachmaninoff plays Rachmaninoff
Reply #4 on: November 03, 2001, 05:45:28 PM
Oh, I could not agree more. Just because the composer does it in a certain way does not mean that is the way everyone has to do it. Every pianist has to come up with his own version of what is Actually in the score and form an opinion about things that are not in the score. (c.f. Osqar's quite ingenious "Hmmm . . . Chopin etc." example!)

It is just that I find it funny that so many pianists end up rather far away from the way Rachmaninov played the same thing or indeed, what is actually written in the score.

In the end I think I would have to confess that it is probably my own personal taste that is driving me here and I tend to like a slightly stricter but in the same time very warm and also spontanious approach to R.'s music than most other people seem to do. Sorry, that's just me.

Offline Hector_the_Crow

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Re: Rachmaninoff plays Rachmaninoff
Reply #5 on: November 05, 2001, 11:16:07 PM
I've heard people describe Rachmaninov's style of interpreting of his own works as dry, straightforward, unsentimental, bored, rushed, etc. I've also heard people describe the prevailing modern style of interpretating Rachmaninov as overly sentimental. I have a theory that Rachmaninov was self-conscious about the accusations of sentimentalism (among other things) his music received, (we know he was prone to self-doubt and depression) and thus attempted to avoid the kind of lingering, dolce-style placing that results in a "sentimental" feel - the kind of playing pianists like Gyorgy Sandor preach against. Rachmaninov's recordings of the four concertos are certainly interesting, but they're not recordings that I'd turn too often. I guess I like the sentimental style better.

Offline Ckarrlozs

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Re: Rachmaninoff plays Rachmaninoff
Reply #6 on: November 06, 2001, 03:00:16 AM
Just some ideas that came up to my mind:

  • Rachmaninoff promised not to perform again his second (or was it the third?...) concerto after he had heard Horowitz performing it live.

  • Compare again the recordings of Rach2 by Rachmaninoff and by Richter: LISTEN TO THE ORCHESTRAS!
    Compare the strings from the Philadelphia Symphony (the 30's) and those from the Warsaw Philarmonic (the 60's). Apparently, THEY were much more sentimental in the 30's!...

  • G. Sandor is 88 years old.

Offline martin_s

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Re: Rachmaninoff plays Rachmaninoff
Reply #7 on: November 06, 2001, 09:14:11 PM
hmmm, what do you mean "G. Sandor is 88 years old"???

And I would say the orchestra playing on Rach.'s own recordings is a bit sleazy maybe but I would not say sentimental. Whatever that means anyway...

Offline Ckarrlozs

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Re: Rachmaninoff plays Rachmaninoff
Reply #8 on: November 07, 2001, 03:04:37 AM
It was just food for thoughts...

G. Sandor is 88 years old... I don't know... I thought it was interesting to note... He grew up in the 20's and 30's... maybe he went to concerts starring Rach. ... etc. etc... It's all up to your mind... Think yourself! ;)

Offline geoffrey

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Re: Rachmaninoff plays Rachmaninoff
Reply #9 on: November 24, 2001, 02:58:30 AM
There are a few things to keep in mind.  First, R was introducing these works to the public on these recordings.  There were no prior renditions.  Naturally he would be interested in presenting the music straight.  In other words, "This is the way it goes."  Whether he played it this way live is open to question.  Certainly live performances of his contemporaries display vivid qualities not easily deduced from studio efforts.  In our time we have many examples of this.  Horowitz, for instance — or Arrau.  
 Second, R was taken with Horowitz' performances of his music, as he was with Geiseking and Moiseivitch.  These three players displayed marked differences with each other as well as with the composer in the performance of his concertos.  This did not seem to perturb R.  He was probably delighted that pianists of this caliber were playing his concertos and being a man of intelligence and an artist would not have insisted that other artists try to play it in his manner.  
 With respect to tempo, I do not think it matters that much.  If there is real conviction in the player and the music emerges intact, many tempos can work.  in the case of R's concerto recordings, they appear somewhat too fast because the notes do not always sound fully.  This might simply be a limitation of the recording apparatus.  His solo records are always clear and accurate at any tempo he chose.      

Offline mozartean

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Re: Rachmaninoff plays Rachmaninoff
Reply #10 on: January 09, 2002, 07:43:40 AM
There is a CD of the Ampico Recordings that Rachmaninoff recorded in the 1920s and 1930s. The piano that is used for the Ampico recording is a Russian-made Estonia. I would say that the recording captures the spirit and vitality of Rachmaninoff's playing with modern high fidelity digital sound. I would recommend this recording to any Rachmaninoff fan.
A true blue Singaporean

Offline martin_s

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Re: Rachmaninoff plays Rachmaninoff
Reply #11 on: January 13, 2002, 03:03:30 PM
Interesting!

What does he play and how do you get hold of this CD??

Offline mozartean

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Re: Rachmaninoff plays Rachmaninoff
Reply #12 on: January 13, 2002, 04:40:45 PM
It is a Vox label recording.
A true blue Singaporean

Offline rmc7777

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Re: Rachmaninoff plays Rachmaninoff
Reply #13 on: February 27, 2002, 09:07:34 PM
I have Rachmaninoff playing Rachmaninoff with the Philadelphia Orchestra in the '30's.   He plays the first and fourth piano concertos and Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.  I find the recordings fascinating from an historical and musical perspective.  I agree with everyone that his tempo in all the pieces is quite fast.  I have similar recordings by Van Cliburn and he plays at a more moderate pace.  Hearing the composer play his own music gives some real insight to it, but I'm not sure I would play everything with the same interpretation.  

Offline IVK

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Re: Rachmaninoff plays Rachmaninoff
Reply #14 on: March 20, 2002, 02:21:35 AM
And I have one recording from 1939 with Rahmaninoff when he played 3rd concert. But it's no so good, the same concert from 1952 with Horowitz is the top of this work.

Offline pianistcomposer

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Re: Rachmaninoff plays Rachmaninoff
Reply #15 on: March 20, 2002, 10:56:23 AM
Changing the subject a little -

Have you heard Prokofiev playing his third piano concerto? It's pretty bad. Sounds like he just wanted to get it over with. He plays faster than anybody. Nice slow sections? They sound Allegro moderato. For good contrast, listen to Van Cliburn playing it - he takes it at a slower tempo than is average for the modern pianist.

Offline stokes

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Re: Rachmaninoff plays Rachmaninoff
Reply #16 on: March 22, 2002, 01:15:08 AM
I also heard some Prokofiev recordings of his music and he does the same as Rachmaninoff. Very fast tempos and not very expressed playing. But you still like hearing it pretty much.
..........................
Regarding what somebody said that Rachmaninoff does pretty much what's in the scores......Rachmaninoff probably put dynamics and tempo markings in the scores before performing the music. He probably changed his mind many times and then changed in the scores. He was the only one who had the chance to do that. The scores we have today is probaby not his first and only edition..........

Offline rachfan

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Re: Rachmaninoff plays Rachmaninoff
Reply #17 on: January 10, 2003, 03:29:02 AM
On the fast tempi, it's worth recalling that in the 20s and 30s recordings were done on tape and transferred to 78 records.  A concerto came in a boxed set of several 78s. Because the 78s were so much shorter in playtime than 33 LPs, strange things were forced to happen.  Often music had to be speeded up to fit onto one or more 78s. In some cases cuts were made in the scores to achieve timing and fit. Breaks between records often occurred in the oddest places.  It might be that conductor and pianist had these constraints in mind, and might explain the hurried tempi in the Rachmaninoff concertos.  The 78s were later remastered to 33s, and most recently to CDs.  So when we pop a CD into the player today, we lose the perspective that all this music was previously chopped up onto several 78s by recording engineers trying to figure out how to capture and best divide up the listening experience, and probably driving the artists crazy in the process.  
Interpreting music means exploring the promise of the potential of possibilities.

Offline trunks

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Re: Rachmaninoff plays Rachmaninoff
Reply #18 on: April 07, 2004, 10:16:42 PM
Vladimir Ovchinnikov played the Rachmaninoff Second Concerto in the 1987 Leeds International Piano Competition (final round) in Great Britain. I was still doing my final-year undergraduate studies in Leeds that time (not music, but computer studies!).

To my best memories he played like Rachmaninoff himself did in his set of vinyl LP recordings of the 4 Concertos. I was watching the finals with my Japanese friend who was doing a Ph.D in Bach's music, himself already a very fine pianist. Guess what . . . at a point during the performance of the concerto, my Japanese friend tapped me on my shoulder and asked: "Oh, you're sleeping?"

"Nope I'm not. He is!" retorted I, pointing towards Ovchinnikov.

Ian Munroe from Australia played the Beethoven No.4 in the same finals with much more conviction. That Ovchinnikov was awarded the First Prize truly infuriated me. From then onwards I refused to believe in piano competitions any more.
Peter (Hong Kong)
part-time piano tutor
amateur classical concert pianist
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