Top positive review
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A remarkable disc and justly famous as a reference since 1957
on 5 March 2013
This disc, recorded in 1957, has withstood the ravages of time as a recording and surpassed most, if not all, alternative performances ever since. This is a very rare accomplishment indeed, especially considering the quality of the competition. At the time of the recording this record was remarkable not only for the performances and the recording quality achieved by EMI. It was also remarkable for the program content as the Rachmaninov concerto was a wild card to say the least back then. It still remains a relative rarity today so this was a most unusual programming decision.
In the event the programming choice was inspirational and has remained unique ever since. The remastered sound from 2000 is astonishing in its freshness, range and fidelity. There is increased 'presence' and depth throughout and this is immediately apparent with the opening whip-crack in the Ravel which now grabs the attention as it should rather than being distantly apologetic as it relatively was. There is no reason to hesitate on that score.
The Ravel performance is comprehensively fine with the climactic moments at white heat contrasted with moments where time simply seems to stand still. Michelangeli's famed technique is here heard to marvellous effect - the trills moving like flowing water in the first movement never fail to astound for example. Much the same can be said of the Rachmaninov which comes over as quite the equal of the earlier and more popular concertos in its creative flair. Rachmaninov pushing the boundaries well away from the lush romanticism of the second or third concerto but still totally involving given a performance such as this.
I would suggest that anyone even remotely interested in the two concertos in this program, or even just one of them, would benefit by giving this disc some serious consideration. Generations of collectors cannot all be wrong!