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

Yuja Wang / Gustavo Dudamel

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Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 3; Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 2 Review

by Blair Sanderson

Deutsche Grammophon's dramatic pairing of Sergey Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor with Sergey Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor makes this CD a brilliant showcase for pianist Yuja Wang and maestro Gustavo Dudamel, two of the biggest sensations on the label. Wang previously released Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and the Piano Concerto No. 2 with Claudio Abbado conducting the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, an ensemble that seemed nearly ideal for accompanying her delicate and often intimate style of playing. However, the usually robust sound of the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela is reined in somewhat on this recording of the Third, if not to be more subdued for Wang's playing, then perhaps to control the effect of Rachmaninov's thick orchestral writing. For whatever reason, Wang's playing is clear and generally well-balanced in the audio mix, though there is some artificial boosting of the volume. In terms of clarity and orchestral density, the Prokofiev Second is a different matter entirely, for the solo part is always audible, and the accompaniment is, for the most part, quite transparent. Wang is shown to better advantage here, and Dudamel has more options to work with, so this exciting performance really deserves top billing, despite the overwhelming popularity of the Rachmaninov work.

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