Witold Malcuzynski

Chopin: Piano Concerto No. 2; Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 3

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Polish pianist Witold Malcuzynski's recording of the second Chopin piano concerto faces the same difficult comparison today that it did after its original 1946 release: that is, a comparison to his fellow Pole Arthur Rubinstein. Both historical recordings have a lot to offer listeners, and the interpretations given by two compatriots of Chopin are equally convincing. Whose recording to listen to depends largely on listener preferences. Rubinstein was not known for his technical cleanliness, particularly in the first half of the century. Malcuzynski's playing is much more cleanly nuanced and detailed, but lacks the robust, captivating sound that Rubinstein was able to pull from his instrument. Every note of Malcuzynski's ornaments can be clearly heard and there's much less reliance on the pedal. The sound of the Philharmonia Orchestra heard here is much less crisp than the soloist; the orchestral tuttis are quite muddy and the bass end of the orchestra is indistinct. As for the Rachmaninoff Third Concerto, the first movement is exceptionally fast. Malcuzynski seems to spend most of his time dragging the orchestra along behind him. The detailed passagework heard in the Chopin is lost to the overly ambitious tempo. The remaining movements are more technically accurate, but do not make up for the lesser-quality first movement.

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