Benno Moiseiwitsch

Delius: Piano Concerto; Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2; Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini

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This is Romantic piano playing with an uppercase "R." The Russian-born but naturalized English virtuoso Benno Moiseiwitsch was a longtime advocate of both the Russian composer Sergey Rachmaninov and the English composer Frederick Delius and his performances here have the stamp of both dedication and authenticity. These three 1955 recordings all have much to recommend them. Moiseiwitsch had recorded the Delius in 1946, but his live performance here is more impulsive and thus more impressive. Likewise, he had recorded Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini twice before in the studio, but this live performance, while dotted with dropped notes, is far more recklessly expressive and thus more persuasive. The final work here, Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto, is represented by the second of Moiseiwitsch's two recordings of the work, a magisterial account that still achieves a surprising degree of the excitement. Ably accompanied by Malcolm Sargent and the BBC Symphony in the Delius concerto and the Rachmaninov Rhapsody and by Hugo Rignold and the Philharmonia in the Rachmaninov concerto, Moiseiwitsch's performances bring back the sparkle and glitter of pre-Great War Europe. It should be noted that the live sound of the Delius and Rachmaninov Rhapsody is harsh and often unpleasant, while the studio sound of the Rachmaninov is distant but heavily atmospheric.

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