What I have to say about the differences and the similarities between Rachmaninoff's sound recordings and his digitally reproduced piano rolls, I have said it in my review of the other disc in the ''Window in Time'' series. Suffice it to say here that every word is equally true for this disc as well.
By far the most important among the 16 pieces on this disc are the three Rachmaninoff never recorded sonically, either acoustically or electrically. These are Rubinstein's ''Barcarolle'', which is just another proof why the great pianist is well forgotten as a composer, and Chopin's Nocturne Op. 15 No. 1 and the Second Scherzo, which may remind us that Rachmaninoff was a ''Chopinist'' to be reckoned with. At first glance, Chopin's pieces may seem to be too much on the slow side for Rachmaninoff, but everybody who has listened to his sound recordings of Chopin - most numerous after his own works - should know that this is not at all unusual. Rachmaninoff's stupendous recording of the Third Scherzo, unfortunately available only in poor acoustical sound, is a fine example of the stark contrasts that characterize his Chopin interpretations: the octave section is insanely fast, while the second subject is taken unusually slowly. The gem on this particular disc certainly is the Second Scherzo. It takes Rachmaninoff nearly ten minutes to go through all of it, but at least he doesn't make any annoying cuts like the young Michelangelli. In fact, Rachmaninoff creates here an awe-inspiring interpretation that combines the demonic impetuosity of Horowitz with the aristocratic poise of Rubinstein. We can but divine what glorious sound Rachmaninoff must have coaxed from his Steinway in the concert hall.
Among the pieces which Rachmaninoff did record sonically as well there are fewer revelations in comparison with the other disc in the series. The reasons are two-fold. On the one hand, the program here contains a great deal more junk. One wonders whether it was Rachmaninoff's wish to record such pieces by Henselt, Paderewski and Gluck-Sgambati, or he was under certain pressure from the recording companies to produce lollipops for mass use. On the other hand, most of his sound recordings of these pieces are post-1924, that is from the electrical era, and thus do not sound so much worse than the digitally reproduced piano rolls in terms of clarity; as far as depth and sonority, and even some subtle nuances, are concerned, the sound recordings are way superior of course. Perhaps the two Chopin Waltzes (Op. 18 and Op. 34 No. 3) are the most precious among these rolls, because they allow us to appreciate details that are hardly discernible in the sound recordings of these pieces (acoustical ones from 1920-21).
In short, though less fine as a selection, this second disc in the ''Window in Time'' series is just as important for the Rachmaninoff buff as its predecessor. It goes without saying that it, too, must be listened to together with the corresponding sound recordings in order Rachmaninoff's unique pianism to be fully appreciated.