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Rachmaninov: Piano Concertos Nos 2 & 3

Yevgeny Sudbin (piano);
 BBC Symphony Orchestra/
Sakari Oramo (BIS)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
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Rachmaninov Piano Concertos Nos 2 & 3
Yevgeny Sudbin (piano); BBC Symphony Orchestra/Sakari Oramo
BIS BIS-2338 (hybrid CD/SACD) 75:12 mins

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Rachmaninov rates highly on St Petersburg-born Yevgeny Sudbin’s CV: the pianist has already recorded concertos Nos 1 and 4 (separate discs), plus a handful of symphonies and solo works (all for BIS). They are some of the finest contemporary recordings of the Russian composer on the market – and now Sudbin can add this reading of Concertos Nos 2 and 3 to that list. The evergreen Second Concerto is gorgeously rich, with just the right amount of gooeyness. Sudbin captures the sheer weight of emotion in this work, which was written after a compositional hiatus for Rachmaninov, reportedly cured by hypnosis and psychotherapy. The extravagance of the piano writing is leavened by Sudbin’s sensitive approach to tempos, particularly in the second movement, where the tendency towards extreme rubato has been many a pianist’s downfall. Throughout, Sudbin creates a beautifully rounded tone – each show-stopping tune is every bit as good as the last.

Sudbin shapes the elongated melodic lines of the Third Concerto with craftsmanship, retaining precision as themes become interwoven. The extraordinary first movement is underlined by a sizzling cadenza (Sudbin plumps for the densely textured first version provided by the composer.) Unlike Rachmaninov’s own recording, Sudbin plays the finale in its entirety. The at-times schmaltzy melodies and upper-octave punctuation in the piano part are nicely balanced by the variety in the orchestral writing, beautifully realised by the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

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Claire Jackson