Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No.2; Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Hybrid SACD
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LANG LANG / GERGIEV / MARIINSK
Top Customer Reviews
First, the piano is overstated - mics are probably way too close and as a result the piano sound is poor in terms of clarity throughtout the recording (except perhaps in the pp and ppp passages); in fact, it just doesn't sound like a concert Steinway, rather like a prep school babygrand.
Second, the orchestra sounds distant; it doesn't blend well with the piano.
Last but not least, Lang Lang's interpretation, whilst technically correct, is just disappointing: phrasing and articulation is not in the great masters style that we all know - it almost seems he lacks inspiration - it is rather a show off of his dexterity. This is unfortunate because I have seen Lang Lang live at the RAH, and he did a superb interpretation that day (plus his favorit Liszt encores !)
Any positives? ... let me just say that the orchestra sounds very fine (although distant) and is brilliantly conducted.
All in all, I just can't believe DG has released such a crippled record - Lang Lang should record it again it (with a decent producer), and this one should be recalled away from the market (and buyers like myself refunded). All these problems are exacerbated if you listen in two channels - multichannel helps by providing greater clarity to the piano - all in all 1 star in stereo; 2 in multichanel.
I guess I will keep this record as a case study of what can go wrong in top budget classical music recording.
Technically the recording is so biased in favour of the piano that the concerto, in places, seems to become wholly a work for solo piano. Further - and a major problem - it seems the piano is either over-miked or that the producers have opted for forceful compression of the signals, making for significant distortion in the upper registers. This alone would be enough to discard this recording. But worse is to come ...
It makes no sense to approach this concerto with a level of interpretative revisionism such that the psychodrama that underscores the work is all but removed. But this is exactly what appears to take place in this performance. Lang Lang appears to wish to erase the inherent internal tensions, the essentially human struggle at the centre of Rachmaninov's masterpiece, and to replace it with a notionally clinical excellence. Frankly I would rather have the odd bum note and gain the humanity, than endure the sterilisation of perfection. Anyway, of course perfection, as such, doesn't exist in this context. It's always going to come down to interpretation, so even with its inevitable technical limitations, I would opt for Van Cliburn's histoical recording which is infinitely superior to Lang Lang's.
The very slow opening of the concerto is a precursor of what is to come, a very romanticised view of the work. Lang Lang evidently has strong views on the emotional content of the music, and attempts to wring every last ounce from it. Gergiev backs him all the way. In doing so, much of the fire and bite in this work is lost. There are moments of great beauty, and flashes of brilliance in some faster, louder sections, but large sections sound subdued and torpid. There is no gainsaying Lang's technique and one can admire much in that department (including in the opening chords, which he doesn't arpeggiate, as some find it necessary to do). But what of the composer? To misquote Star Trek's Scottie, 'It's Rachmaninov, Jim, but not as we know it'.
The Rhapsody sits more comfortably with me - after all, Lang Lang's style so far could have been described as rhapsodic with some justification. As in the concerto, he doesn't manage the 'cut and thrust' with the orchestra as well as some, but that may be exacerbated by the recording.
I would not criticise the piano sound greatly but it is certainly balanced to the fore and more closely miked than the orchestra. Whether the Mariinsky strings have decided to follow Rachmaninov to America and adopt the US style, or the recording has been given the Hollywood treatment, the overall effect is very plush, smooth and glossy. There is some beautiful playing, but all is wrapped up in a cloying veil behind the piano. Nevertheless, balance in the orchestra, frequency and dynamic range, and ambience, are all more than acceptable.Read more ›
I have never heard these pieces performed so beautifully before. They touch every nerve with their intoxicating mix of emotions - so brutally honest in the delivery - forcing you to feel the fear, doubt, grief, sadness and joy that Rachmaninov himself must have felt in order to write them. I don't know anything about classical music technically - but I know it should move you - and this does... It moves you to the very core!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Having now heard this recording, I am puzzled by the comments of some reviewers as the performance is described as 'romanticised' by one and
'clinical' by another, which seem... Read more
Love this performance, it sounds absolutely superb in surround sound.
The surround sound has not been over done in the recording either, very natural sounding and... Read more
It was everything and more than what I expected. A very enjoyable hour.Published 10 months ago by Tony