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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
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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!
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on 6 January 2010
I'm not a great fan of Michelangeli (I often find his style of pianism too cold and clinical particularly in solo piano repertoire), but I must admit, this EMI stereo recording of Ravel's G major Concerto is truly in the class of its own and has never been surpassed yet as far as I've known.

In the outer movements, the pianist pushes the technical boundary to the limit and the dazzling tone he produces penetrates even the thickest of orchestral texture. It is astounding, he manages to articulate every note on the score even in the boldest sweep of the most difficult passages. In comparison, the modern performances by Zimerman, Yundi Li, Thibaudet, Roge, Lortie and etc sound too tame and spineless. And the uncompromising tonal refinement and the noble beauty, in the slow movement, transcend all the existing recorded performances. Time seems to stand still in the sheer sublimity of his playing.

The performance of Rachmaninov's 4th concerto is no less impressive. Again the outer movements are played with amazing clarity and totally gripping. In the slow movement, he captures the full-blooded Romanticism and poetry of the music like no other pianists. I've come to love this concerto as much as 2nd and 3rd, thanks to this revelatory account by Michelangeli.
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I had heard about this recording for decades, but being satisfied with Argerich, Ashkenazy, Hough, and others, I had never got round to buying it until recently. Well, it's everything that it was reputed to be -- the playing is superb, full of energy, wit, charm, and warmth (not always associated with Michelangeli), and once again, I was surprised at how much I liked the Rachmaninov Fourth, which I had tended to overlook in my explorations of this composer. The Ravel is the more satisfying performance here, not because of any defect in the pianism but rather because it suffers less -- being less densely scored -- from the limitations of the 1957 sound. That sound is very good for its age -- and Victor Olof ensures a fine balance and attention to the solo winds in the Ravel -- and the slow movement of the Ravel is simply beautifully presented, with the cor anglais and flute most eloquent in their music, with the piano rippling away below. Michelangeli's playing of the long opening solo section of that movement is beyond criticism: absolutely compelling. The playing in the outer movements is about as sheerly enjoyable as it could be, and Michelangeli seems very much at home with it all.

The Rachmaninov Fourth is more sparely scored than his earlier concertos, and while there are moments that remind you of the Romantic richness of this composer's earlier work, the effect here is altogether jazzier -- Gershwin-like climactic moments in the outer movements especially -- and propulsive in a way that resembles Prokofiev. The orchestration is denser than Ravel's, however, and that's what the 1957 engineering can't do justice to. Compare this recording with Leif Ove Andsnes's recording with Pappano, and you'll appreciate the orchestral work appropriately -- and Andsnes's pianism is spectacular too, very much in the Michelangeli class, with a sweetness that doesn't diminish the sense of energy. It's good to have both, but it's the Ravel that makes this disc really special.
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on 19 August 2009
Michelangeli's coupling of these two concertos has long been reckoned to be one of the greatest - if not the greatest - concerto recording of all time. It's not just that his pianism is perfect - it's that it generates a life and electricity of its own that carries all before it. The Ravel is scintillating - just listen to the finale taken at break-neck pace yet phrased so delicately. And the playing in the Rach 4 makes you wonder just why this concerto is neglected. it emerges here as a masterpiece in its own right, different from its famous predecessors, but a new dimension in what the composer had to say. Fabulous! But now and enjoy!
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on 2 October 2003
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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on 11 August 2015
I had the original LP before I decided to sell my collection and was delighted when the opportunity to obtain a remastered CD version became available. These performances were always regarded as definitive and the sound in this latest incarnation is remarkably good.
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on 8 February 2017
This in my mind is one of the greatest recordings of the Ravel concerto. Michelangeli plays the central adagio without imbuing it with false emotion or excessive rubato. The poetry and nostalgia comes from the fact he is clean and direct in his performance without pulling the long opening solo of this movement out of shape in an attempt to achieve something poetic. In my mind Pascal Roge doesn't even come close. The recording for 1957 is still very good but may not be up to date enough for some tastes. I've always had a bit of a problem with the Rach 4. Maybe it is the Three Blind Mice/Two Lovely Black-Eyes middle moment in the central movement that I can't quite get over, but this performance is still one to reckon with.
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on 9 July 2012
This recording is a gem. The way Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli plays the Ravel Concerto is the most beautiful I can imagine.
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on 19 January 2015
Great product with speedy standard delivery.
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on 29 February 2016
I bought the original HMV LP and the subsequent LP reissues.Now glad to have it on CD.Cannot praise it enough..Magnificent in all respects.One of the best discs ever made.
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