Rachmahinov: Piano Concerto No. 1 in F sharp minor; Piano Concerto No. 4 in C minor; Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini

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COMPOSERS: Rachmahinov
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 1 in F sharp minor; Piano Concerto No. 4 in C minor; Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
PERFORMER: Bernd Glemser (piano)Polish National RSO/Antoni Wit
CATALOGUE NO: 8.550809
The popularity of Rachmaninov’s piano concertos lies with Nos 2 and 3 (with help from films like Brief Encounter and Shine) as well as the Paganini Rhapsody, which concludes this disc. The composer himself was less than satisfied with his Op. 1, a student work of 1891 which he recast in 1917. Full of Tchaikovsky, and in the slow movement Chopin, it nevertheless has Rachmaninov’s imprint of virtuosic passages and lyrical melodies. The young German Bernd Glemser makes light of the technical problems, particularly in the vigorous and curiously constructed finale, and imbues the phrasing with warmth and line, ably supported in the idiomatic rubato by the orchestra under Antoni Wit. Balance in the opening of the Fourth Concerto is rather hazy, and although Glemser’s playing remains refined and stylish, some orchestral moments are less than satisfactory. The Michelangeli account remains unassailable in recordings of this concerto. Competition with the past is even tougher when it comes to the Paganini Rhapsody – Katchen’s 1960 recording with Boult and the LPO, for example — but Glemser brings soul and wit (no pun on the Polish conductor intended) to his performance. Christopher Fifield

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