Customer Review

38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Greatest Piano Records of all time, 2 Oct. 2003
This review is from: Ravel & Rachmaninov: Piano Concertos (Audio CD)
P>I bought this recording when it came out it on LP in the late 50s. I found it amazing at the time (I was then a 13 year old piano fanatic) and over forty years later I still think it one of the greatest examples of piano playing and music making of all time.
The Ravel is hors de concours. Marguerite Long with Ravel conducting sounds like a sewing machine (We know Ravel was not happy with her interpretation). Other pianists pull it around as if it were Jazz (e.g. Bernstein) or badly played Chopin. No one before or since has managed to get the Ravel sound: the balance between the Ravel classical metronome and the Ravel wild devil, between the singing piano and the brittle piano, between Couperin and Jazz, between what Perlemuter described as "the two pianos of Ravel". Listen to Michelangeli's performance of Gaspard, has anyone ever got it better?
I attended Vlado Perlemuter's master classes in the sixties (Vlado studied all Ravel's piano works with the composer) and I myself played the G major concerto when I was in my twenties so I know how "the tricks" are done; but when Michelangeli does them, I am lost in the excitement and the magic of the music.
Listen to the cadenza of the first movement: the theme first in the left hand then picked out in right-hand trills (in imitation of a a flexatone). That is extraordinary music making riding on top of transcendental piano playing - it is as awesome now as it was forty years ago and as it will be in fifty years time.
As for the Rachmaninov: Interestingly, some ten years ago, the BBC radio programme "Interpretations on Record" judged Michelangeli's performance "better in many respects" than S. Rachmaninov's. I couldn't agree more! I love/revere/worship Rachmaninov's own performances of his concertos, his rubato and phrasing are distinctive and inimitable with not a jot of vulgarity or playing to the gallery.
While Michelangeli never tries to mimic Rachmaninov's playing, he does manage to capture Rachmaninov's ability to present passion under control albeit on the point of exploding. Michelangeli has drive, lyricism and perfect balance between emotion and form. He has Horowitz' virtuosity without the flashing neon signs, he has Rachmaninov's control without the sometimes self-conscious self-restraint. This is some of the greatest piano playing you will ever hear. If you don't own these performances, go out and buy them at once and cherish them.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 16 Dec 2011 11:02:13 GMT
I love the comment, 'Albeit on the point of exploding!'

Posted on 30 Aug 2014 21:16:41 BDT
david says:
It's great to read an insider's thoughts....I really do not think the CD transfers have ever done justice to the quality of the recording. For sheer excitement you must go back to the vinyl. Now what prompts me is I have just played a mid price "Concert Classics" LP of the Rach 4/Ravel which interestingly has the dog in colour on the label and it is a first class pressing - full of vitality and depth of sound and silent surfaces. If only more UK pressings were like that! It's a display card for ABM's technique, a vehicle for his temperament, and his ability to shape the whole structure from beginning to end. Apart from the deliberately restricted dynamic range - so what, we are listening to this at home through ordinary equipment, not in a studio - nothing is lost, the focus is on the keyboard where it should be and the orchestra and conductor are wonderfully supportive. Perhaps the best piano concerto recording of all time? Cheers.

In reply to an earlier post on 15 Oct 2014 18:20:02 BDT
Ron Viewer says:
You do realise, of course, that the "deliberately restricted dynamic range" has to be even more deliberately restricted on a vinyl record, because of the physical limitations of the medium. Still, nostalgia can be fun.

In reply to an earlier post on 15 Oct 2014 22:35:35 BDT
Last edited by the author on 15 Oct 2014 22:43:24 BDT
david says:
you are wrong in this case Ron, though there are many examples of classic recordings being digitally remastered in a way that gives an added dimension to the sound - though it still is not absolutely superior to the original

the vinyl of these recordings does sound better because. like all great analog recordings, was laid down on tape, mixed to the master, for the purpose of cutting lacquers and vinyl records - you can't really get away from that as this was the situation when they were made so it does those characteristics no favours at all when they are remastered to digital if that remastering is not done sympathetically by a good sound engineer - unfortunately my experience of these EMI remasterings has always been that they lack warmth, depth of tone and sheer excitement. That is what I said and I stand by it with the evidence of my ears.
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