Sergey Rachmaninov

Sergei Rachmaninoff: The Complete Recordings

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This 10-CD set wowed audiences when it first appeared in 1992, and with good reason -- although music scholars and classical record collectors were well aware of it, the general classical audience of the late twentieth century likely had no inkling of how extensively Rachmaninov had recorded and otherwise preserved aspects of his playing and performances (in addition to his actual recordings, there were also the piano rolls that he did for the American Piano Company, which are a matter separate from this collection, and transcribed and released by Decca/London Records on CD). Rachmaninov was better known as a pianist than a composer in his own time, a renowned figure at the keyboard who made much of his living after leaving Russia following the revolution -- with barely a cent to his name, as was the Communist government's policy on such matters -- as a concert artist, playing (or conducting) not only his own works but also those of other composers. These included Bach, Handel, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Chopin, Bizet, Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, and Saint-Saëns, among others, usually in their own works but also sometimes in arrangements by Rachmaninov himself. They're well-represented here, along with his interpretations of his own four piano concertos, the Paganini Rhapsody, and his Symphony No. 3, among other key works in his output. The technique and virtuosity represented are daunting throughout, and the transfers are surprisingly clean and sharp, leaving relatively little for the modern listener to adjust to in terms of appreciating the content. Rachmaninov died in 1943, four years before the advent of magnetic tape recording in the American record industry, so there are inherent limitations even to the best sources that one could hope to find; and in some instances RCA had less-than-perfect sources, even within the field of lacquer masters, to return to -- but the musicianship is so imposing throughout this set that it's easy to overlook the surface noise that runs faintly through much of these 10 CDs. The Opus 32 Preludes and Opus 33 Etude-tableau No. 2 on disc number eight are very commanding and overpowering performances; that same disc contains the most extraordinary of the orchestral recordings, the composer's 1924 recording of the Piano Concerto No. 2. The 1929 electrical recording is the more famous and easily accessible of the two, readily available on various single- and double-CD reissues from BMG in addition to this set; however, the acoustic recording from five years earlier is the greater performance, the nuances, tempos, and balances between soloist and orchestra (both times it was the Philadelphia Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski), all falling into place in a performance that makes it sound like the listener is hearing it for the first time. It's unique to this set and, in tandem with the rest of the content of this disc alone, is worth the price of admission. One wants to say that anyone who loves great piano music or superb playing should own this particular set, but therein lies the caveat, especially for someone considering buying a sealed copy. This set, in its original pressings, contained a serious manufacturing defect that started to show up a couple of years later; as happened with BMG's complete Caruso box, the label tried to get fancy with the art on the label-side of the CDs, and in doing so utilized a pair of greenish dyes that, while harmless individually, interacted together and gradually reacted in tandem with the aluminum of the CD, the part underneath the layer of plastic that contains the encoded, digitized music. And so a year or two or three after purchasing it, owners saw their CDs clouding up and otherwise developing what looked like a creeping white fungus on the play sides, which instantly became unplayable. BMG fixed the problem in later pressings with both the Rachmaninov and Caruso sets (the good ones on the latter have ordinary black lettering on a metal background on the label sides of the CDs, instead of all that dye), and also had a program in place in the mid-'90s to provide proper replacement copies to anyone who sent back a bad set. Where that replacement program is in 2006 is anyone's guess, but that year the label also repackaged and reissued this 10-disc set under the title Sergei Rachmaninoff: His Complete Recordings as part of its budget-priced "Complete Collections" series, in a much smaller box in thin individual mini-LP-type sleeves, with a list price roughly half that of this set.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Title/Composer Performer Time
Piano Concerto No. 1 in F sharp minor, Op. 1
1
12:09
2
5:23
3
7:25
Piano Concerto No. 4 in G minor, Op. 40
4
9:49
5
6:04
6
8:50
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (Introduction and 24 Variations), for piano & orchestra in A minor, Op. 43
7
0:07
8
0:20
9
0:20
10
0:19
11
0:25
12
0:30
13
0:28
14
0:52
15
1:00
16
0:32
17
0:31
18
0:50
19
1:13
20
1:18
21
0:29
22
0:44
23
1:05
24
1:21
25
1:42
26
2:44
27
0:28
28
0:36
29
0:26
30
1:39
31
0:49
32
1:10

Track Listing - Disc 5

Title/Composer Performer Time
Partita for keyboard No. 4 in D major, BWV 828 (BC L4)
1
4:21
Suite for keyboard (Suite de piece), Vol.1, No.5 in E major ("The Harmonious Blacksmith"), HWV 430
2
4:16
Piano Sonata No. 11 in A major ("Alla Turca") K. 331 (K. 300i)
3
2:16
Variations (32) on an original theme for piano in C minor, WoO 80
4
0:17
5
0:11
6
0:11
7
0:12
8
0:15
9
0:20
10
0:09
11
0:19
12
0:16
13
0:24
14
0:15
15
0:15
16
0:19
17
0:16
18
0:16
19
0:13
20
0:15
21
0:27
22
0:09
23
0:16
24
0:11
25
0:12
26
0:18
27
0:16
28
1:33
Die Heimkehr, transcription for piano (after Chopin Op. 74/6), S. 480/6 (LW A193/6)
29
1:27
30
2:42
Müllerleider (6), for piano, (after Schubert, D. 795), S. 565bis (LW A128)
31
1:41
32
4:26
Polonaises (2), for piano, S. 223 (LW A171)
33
7:39
34
1:43
Impromptus (4) for piano, D. 899 (Op. 90)
35
4:31
36
3:07
37
3:29
Etudes (3) for piano, Op. 104b
38
2:50
39
1:48
Spanisches Liederspiel, 10 songs for voice(s) & piano, Op. 74
40
1:51
Humoresques de concert (6), for piano, Op. 14
41
3:52
42
4:59

Track Listing - Disc 6

Title/Composer Performer Time
Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 35, CT. 202
1
5:53
2
5:20
3
6:08
4
1:30
Carnaval for piano, Op. 9
5
2:13
6
1:08
7
0:34
8
1:02
9
1:27
10
0:47
11
0:58
12
0:24
13
0:36
14
0:38
15
0:38
16
1:08
17
0:45
18
0:24
19
1:23
20
0:50
21
0:51
22
1:15
23
0:45
24
1:52
25
0:16
26
3:05
27
4:46
28
3:37
29
2:48
30
7:22
31
2:45
32
1:43

Track Listing - Disc 7

Title/Composer Performer Time
Partita for solo violin No. 3 in E major, BWV 1006
1
3:13
2
2:50
3
1:05
A Midsummer Night's Dream, incidental music, Op. 61
4
4:01
5
7:02
Die schöne Müllerin, song cycle, for voice & piano, D. 795 (Op. 25)
6
2:22
7
3:48
Etudes-Tableaux, for piano, Op. 39
8
2:33
Morceaux de fantaisie (5), for piano, Op. 3
9
3:41
10
1:48
11
4:03
12
1:13
Ruins of Athens, incidental music, Op. 113
13
3:04
14
2:59
The Seasons, for piano, Op. 37
15
3:57
16
2:37
17
7:01
Russian Songs (3) for chorus & orchestra, Op. 41
18
3:49
19
1:18

Track Listing - Disc 9

Title/Composer Performer Time
1
2:05
2
3:43
3
4:36
4
2:47
5
1:59
6
3:03
7
1:56
8
6:56
9
2:18
10
2:03
L' Arlésienne, suite for orchestra No. 1, from the incidental music
11
2:45
12
3:04
Spinning Song for piano in C major
13
1:51
14
1:40
15
0:42
16
2:42
Études caractéristiques (12), for piano, Op 2
17
1:44
Études for piano, Op. 52
18
1:50
Children's Corner, suite for piano (or orchestra), L. 113
19
2:05
20
3:10
The Seasons, for piano, Op. 37
21
3:51
Morceaux (2) for piano (or piano & violin), Op. 10
22
2:47
23
2:57

Track Listing - Disc 10

Title/Composer Performer Time
Preludes (10) for piano, Op. 23
1
3:35
Preludes (13) for piano, Op. 32
2
2:33
Morceaux de fantaisie (5), for piano, Op. 3
3
3:40
Preludes (13) for piano, Op. 32
4
3:03
Morceaux de fantaisie (5), for piano, Op. 3
5
3:10
6
2:33
Morceaux de fantaisie (5), for piano, Op. 3
7
3:38
8
4:03
9
4:22
10
10:29
11
4:00
Piano Sonata No. 11 in A major ("Alla Turca") K. 331 (K. 300i)
12
4:06
13
3:57
14
2:47
15
4:08
Morceaux de salon, for piano, Op. 10
16
3:55
Morceaux de fantaisie (5), for piano, Op. 3
17
3:42
blue highlight denotes track pick