There are definite pros and cons to "collection" recordings such as this one. The Rachmaninoff Collection provides the novice listener with an excellent introduction to the lush works of this celebrated romantic composer. The performers included in this anthology represent many of the most prominent names ever to record with Sony or its affiliates over the years. The sound quality is consistently pleasing, a testament to the audio engineers for making recordings from 1964 sound equally as lush and full as those from 2001. The downside for listeners more experienced with Rachmaninov's music is that each track makes you yearn to hear the work in its entirety. The liner notes are also quite sparse and fail to deliver any real background on the composer, the performers, or the works.
Every track provides a masterful performance. Highlights of the collection include a scintillating presentation of an excerpt from the Fantasie-Tableaux given by pianists Emanuel Ax and Yefim Bronfman, two artists equally at home as soloists or as chamber musicians. Yuri Temirkanov and the St. Petersburg Philharmonic's rendition of the Adagio from the Second Symphony is breathtaking. The extended clarinet solo at the beginning of the movement is flawless and filled with dynamic nuance and is followed by passages of spacious, luxurious string playing. Relative newcomer Arcadi Volodos' Herculean efforts during the Finale of the Third Piano Concerto are stunning, making it one of the most exceptional recordings of this fiendishly difficult piece.