WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 3; Prelude in G, Op. 32/5; Prelude in G sharp minor, Op. 32/12; Prelude in B flat, Op. 23/2
PERFORMER: Nelson Goerner (piano); BBC Philharmonic/Vassily Sinaisky
CATALOGUE NO: VEL 3051
If Nelson Goerner had been the sole focus of attention, there would have been four stars for performance. But Rachmaninov’s piano concertos are not instrumental solos with orchestral accompaniment, despite what some recording producers seem to think. Arcadi Volodos on Sony was particularly badly served in this respect. But then this Swiss release, though recorded at a concert in Manchester early in 2000, hardly offers a more realistic sound-picture. The orchestra might as well be playing behind a thick curtain, while Sinaisky takes it easy, his interaction with the soloist sometimes less than alert.
Lack of rapport and bad balance are less noticeable in the slow movement, though the oboe makes an ugly yowl. But again in the finale, the relentless predominance of the piano becomes wearing. Not that I have anything but praise for Goerner, with his characteristically radiant sound and feline grace. Still, Evgeny Kissin, also recorded live, with the Boston Symphony under Seiji Ozawa in 1993, finds a lot more expressive detail – and needs to, since his slow tempo for the first movement adds a good two minutes to the time it takes here. In addition, Kissin and Ozawa really work together, so that the focus shifts constantly between soloist and orchestra. The Boston playing is also far superior to the BBC Philharmonic’s, and a final bonus point is scored when Ozawa allows the trumpets their head at the very end of the work. Adrian Jack