I have enjoyed this recording since it first appeared, and it is still on my player after all these years. The Scriabin etudes are a wonderful bonus. With Lang Lang's autobiography now in print, the story of his life leading up to this recording makes this CD interesting as a historical document of a young pianist emerging on the world stage. Other reviewers sometimes tell us that there are "classic" recordings by better interpreters of this piece. Personally, I have not found the particular recordings most often mentioned to be all that "classic". The one recording of this masterpiece I would most recommend is (strangely?) almost never mentioned: Rachmaninoff's own recording from 1939 with Eugene Ormandy conducting. You can listen to it on You Tube (no video, obviously) as posted by "theoshow2".
Rachmaninoff's own performance, though surprising at first, sets a standard that is perhaps impossible to match. This is his music, and he plays it as a natural expression of his own particular technical gifts and interests. His playing radiates articulation, muscular grace, fluency and subtlety, even at tempos far faster than others' most frenzied attempts. Throughout the performance there is a sense of invention, imagination, and purpose. His Steinway is dark and magical, never imposing any limitations on his performance. In other words, there is no descent into the usual percussive banging, even in the most challenging passages. Who can say today how Rachmaninoff sounded when he played the piece as a young man? The 1939 recording certainly projects a confidence and familiarity that would have been unlikely 30 years earlier.
This is all to say that this is a piece with enormous technical and musical challenges. I still hope to hear a recording, apart from Rachmaninoff's own, that can make sense of it all and reveal the fluidity of its thought process throughout the most demanding passages. Lang Lang's youthful recording is wonderful in its lyrical moments, but like all other modern recordings I've heard, it does not speak to me with the intense beauty and convincing musicality in every passage of the composer's own performance.