Ravel, Rachmaninoff

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COMPOSERS: Rachmaninoff,Ravel
LABELS: EMI Great Recordings of the Century
WORKS: Piano Concerto in G
PERFORMER: Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (piano); Philharmonia Orchestra/Ettore Gracis
CATALOGUE NO: CDM 5 67238 2 ADD Reissue (1958)
This recording is as famous for the coupling (which yields rather ungenerous playing time in the current format) as for the superlative performances it enshrines. If in the late Fifties Michelangeli’s Ravel seemed distinctive for its meticulous focus and unswerving commitment, such qualities transformed the Rachmaninoff Fourth, providing the most persuasive advocacy this work has yet enjoyed. Together, Michelangeli and Gracis fashion sustained argument out of music that some consider sentimental dross. The Ravel recording, fine as it is, has recently been surpassed by Zimerman and Boulez, who offer equal polish but more elegance and wit in the outer movements and utterly magical musings in the Adagio assai (the rather clumsy cor anglais solo in the Michelangeli is a liability). But whatever his other recorded achievements, this disc constitutes the cornerstone of the Michelangeli discography, just as it remains an important landmark in the interpretation of these concertos. David Breckbill

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