Rachmaninov: Piano Concertos 1 & 2

Leif Ove Andsnes / Antonio Pappano

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Rachmaninov: Piano Concertos 1 & 2 Review

by Patsy Morita

Pianist Leif Ove Andsnes and conductor Antonio Pappano work in tandem to give Rachmaninov's first two piano concertos zing and excitement. They bring out all the drama in these concertos, going full tilt where Rachmaninov calls for it, but they don't quite let it slip into hearts and flowers sentimentality in the slow movements. They keep these lyrical, with beautiful, touching expression and nuanced phrasing, just as the finales are dance-like and almost capricious at times. Rachmaninov's Concertos No. 2 and No. 3 greatly overshadow the Concerto No. 1, so it is even more thrilling to hear it done so well and so rousingly. The balance between the piano and orchestra in this recording, both in the performance and in the sound are just as inspiring as the performance itself. There is a sense that although the piano is the star of the show, the orchestra has its own moments to shine. There are particular passages, such as two minutes into the opening of the Concerto No. 2, where an interesting string accompaniment, usually buried far beneath the solo part, comes out clearly but not overwhelmingly. There are similar moments in the Concerto No. 1 with the brass. Those moments are like finding new reasons to enjoy and appreciate something that's been experienced many, many times already.

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