Anna Vinnitskaya performs Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2

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COMPOSERS: Rachmaninov
LABELS: Alpha Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Rachmaninov
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 2; Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini
PERFORMER: Anna Vinnitskaya (piano); NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra/Krzysztof Urbanski

Whether or not Rachmaninov’s Second is the world’s most popular piano concerto, there are probably enough recordings of it now to fill the Royal Albert Hall. To hold its own in a desperately overcrowded market populated with the likes of Sviatoslav Richter, Vladimir Ashkenazy and, indeed, the composer himself, any new recording has to be exceptionally fine. Anna Vinnitskaya and Krzysztof Urbanski here offer a reading of this concerto that has much to recommend it – not least, that it is straightforward and ‘classic’ in the best sense. Vinnitskaya’s playing is an absolute delight for its natural, songful, expressive phrasing and a cool, unpretentious temperament rather akin with the composer’s own recorded approach. Always intelligent, and present in the moment, she is alive to the inner voices and colourful contrasts in both this and the Paganini Rhapsody, maintaining control, poise and sensitivity throughout.

If the Paganini Rhapsody could do with sharper edges and more sparkle, that is possibly down to a somewhat ploddy accompaniment from the orchestra, tempos that could perhaps move with more energy and conviction, and a slightly bulbous acoustic (the recording is from the NDR  studios in Hamburg, not the Elbphilharmonie itself, if you were wondering). So, of the two pieces, the concerto emerges in finer form, its moody temperament and tenderness excellently intact. 
Jessica Duchen