Rachmaninoff: Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 36; Piano Concerto No. 3

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COMPOSERS: Rachmaninoff
LABELS: RCA Red Seal
WORKS: Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 36; Piano Concerto No. 3
PERFORMER: Vladimir Horowitz (piano); New York PO/Eugene Ormandy
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 63681 2 ADD Reissue (1978, 1980)
Someone said Bette Davis gave the least significant line a sense of urgency. Perhaps every note really is important in Rachmaninoff, though he made cuts in both the works here. Horowitz made his own revision of the Sonata, but restored cuts in the Concerto over the years. In this live 1978 performance the piano is put at the front of the picture and the whole thing sounds like a series of vivid highlights rather than growing organically like Rachmaninoff’s own recording 40 years earlier with the same conductor. Horowitz’s entries in the second and third movements sound scratchy and scrambled, but he’s marvellously over the top in the swooning passages.

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The Sonata, patched from two concerts in 1980, has its moments, particularly when the piano roars like an angry sports car, but the overall effect is fractured and, towards the end, Horowitz almost breaks the music up into separate, violent impacts. Better to go for Weissenberg. Adrian Jack