Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:


Piano Concerto No. 2
Piano Concerto No. 4
Russian Rhapsody

Vladimir Ashkenazy (piano)
LSO/Andre Previn
(Previn and Ashkenazy in the Rhapsody)
rec 1972, 1979
ELOQUENCE 467 453-2 [69.55]

Commentary on the Eloquence series

These are classics of the Decca catalogue. Have they ever been out of availability since their first issue? Their recordings coincided with and helped make Rachmaninov's rehabilitation into the cultural world in the early 1970s. It must be a sure indicator of the passing of time that these premium items now emerge to strengthen the Eloquence bargain line. Not much needs to be said.

Ashkenazy is a sure technician as well as being an aristocratic and comprehensive exponent of Rachmaninov's melancholic romance and tumblingly headlong virtuosity. Previn, whose EMI recording of the Second Symphony well merits its classic status (unlike his cooler interpretations of the flanking symphonies), partners, goads and responds in authentic style. The inevitability and romantic feeling invested by Previn and the orchestra is deeply affecting without for one moment retreating into sentimentality. Try 4.40 in the first movement of Rach 2. The Russian Rhapsody is an inconsequential makeweight; better to have than not. A superb disc at bargain price and with sound quality of emphatic poetry. What more could you ask? If I lean towards the even greater passion of Earl Wild (1960s analogue recording but also at the now-demolished Kingsway Hall) on a Chandos Enchant twofer (all four concertos and the Paganini) the choice is generally a matter of personal taste and fine gradation. Horenstein and Wild are much the superior in the opening of No 4 where the LSO and Ashkenazy seem disconnected and momentarily rushed out of control. This compares with the strutting defiant unanimity of Horenstein and Wild. The snarl and bark of the brass in the closing minutes of the concerto is, by contrast, overwhelming in the Eloquence version. No liner notes - a small loss to set against many advantages. You will note the analogue origins of the concertos.

Rob Barnett

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