Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 4; Variations on a Theme of Corelli; Piano Sonata No. 2; Prelude in C sharp minor, Op. 3/2

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Rachmaninov
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 4; Variations on a Theme of Corelli; Piano Sonata No. 2; Prelude in C sharp minor, Op. 3/2
PERFORMER: Jean-Yves Thibaudet (piano)Cleveland Orchestra/Vladimir Ashkenazy
CATALOGUE NO: 458 930-2
Rachmaninov’s Fourth Concerto has never become as popular as its predecessors, and it isn’t hard to hear why. The booklet may speak of its ‘vigorous harmonic incisiveness’, but the fact remains that the tunes aren’t memorable enough, and despite Rachmaninov’s two revisions, the overall structure doesn’t have much coherence. That’s not to say that a really outstanding performance can’t pull it off, but that isn’t what we have here. The main problem is Thibaudet’s actual piano sound – quietly glistening in the more delicate passages, but hard-edged when the music is loud. His first chords after the orchestral introduction just sound like a series of thumps, and he’s not helped by being forward in the recording balance. A pity, not only because Ashkenazy gets clear and precise playing from the orchestra, but because the solo items are much better. They were recorded in London, on a different piano, and Thibaudet sounds like a different pianist. There’s a depth of sonority in the fuller passages, and a sense of melodic lines unfolding seamlessly. The quiet opening of the Corelli Variations sings simply and beautifully, and Thibaudet delineates the character of each variation with subtlety. When he comes to the Sonata, he traces the ebb and flow of the writing with great conviction, and finds a real sense of line in the intertwining melodies. Martin Cotton

Advertisement