Simon Trpceski / Vasily Petrenko / Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

Rachmaninov: Piano Concertos 2 & 3

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It's possible to admire Simon Trpceski's bravura performances of Sergey Rachmaninov's piano concertos No. 2 and No. 3 without focusing too closely on the recording's problems, because this pianist brings so much passion, character, and brilliance to his playing that it overrides complaints one might have about the orchestral imbalance or inadequacies of sound quality. Accompanied by Vasily Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Trpceski throws all of his energy and élan into the solo part, and his vitality carries these extremely familiar concertos along, where a lesser pianist might not have made them sound as convincing. However, the piano part is sometimes in danger of being washed out by the thick orchestral textures, and the swelling of sound in bass-heavy passages seems artificially boosted through mixing. Rachmaninov's orchestration is especially opaque in the Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, so special attention should have been paid to adjusting the dynamics of the lower range instruments. The situation markedly improves in the lighter textures of the Allegro scherzando, and the more skillfully orchestrated Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor has fewer incidents of dense instrumentation and close bass harmonies. But even the richness of Rachmaninov's accompaniment in the mid-range tends to mask the piano's full resonance, and the full climaxes of the first and third movements present Trpceski with his most serious challenges. On the whole, this is an enjoyable album of two of the most dazzling -- if over-played and over-recorded -- concertos in the repertoire, and Trpceski acquits himself admirably. Listeners, however, may find adjusting the volume and balance controls a challenge in its own right.

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