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The Rach 3 recordings page

THE LATEST ADDITIONS: Orlovetsky/Titov, Ashkenazy/Haitink, Hough/Litton, and Kocsis/de Waart


I got my first recording of Rachmaninoff's 3rd concerto on November 17, 1990, by Horowitz/Reiner on RCA. At that time, I didn't like the piece at all. However, many of my friends loved the concerto, so I wanted to give it a few more tries, by buying the two other commercial recordings Horowitz made, the Ashkenazy/Previn, and Argerich/Chailly's version, which was touted as "The Ultimate Rach 3!" by Philips. Still, none of them worked for me. I didn't like this concerto very much, until I decided to try to play it myself. Through learning the piece, I became familiar with it, and it was in December 1996 that I decided to collect recordings of this magnificient work. At first, I didn't want to get all versions, and thought about 20 would be enough. Then, in 1999, a pen pal told me about this guy named Scott Colebank who owned nearly all Rach 3's ever released. So, I thought I should aim higher and decided to buy all versions I could find.

Since then, the pursuit of Rach 3's has brought me much joy and excitement. Close to 200 versions of this work have been issued commercially, and it is my goal to collect all of them -- this page lists the ones I have gotten so far. It certainly is a costly project, but that isn't where the biggest difficulty is. The hardest thing is finding these recordings. Of these well over 100 versions, only about 60 are in print and can be obtained in where I live, i.e. the U.S. An additional 15 or so (a very rough estimate) are in print but are not available in the States, but can still be purchased through the internet. Most of the remaining ones are extremely hard to find, and can be found only through hard work, help from an international network of collectors, lots of luck, and perseverance. My collection of Rach 3's has CDs/LPs/DVDs acquired from Australia, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, England, Estonia, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Monaco, the Netherlands, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, and of course the United States.

One of the questions I am asked the most often is, "What are your favorite versions of the Rach 3?". I have been so busy collecting Rach 3's that I actually haven't had the chance to listen to many of them carefully, and so I really can't answer that question! Therefore, I decided to listen to each one of them closely, and then talk about them on this page.

I did a Google search for "rach 3" and found only a few pages that compared different versions of this monumental work. They are well written, but the problem is they only cover a small portion of all the versions that have been released. There are other Rach 3 collectors around the world who own more versions than I, but they either don't write web pages, or they don't write in English. Therefore, I think this page may be of some help to people trying to decide what version(s) to buy. Of course, many people will disagree with some (or even most??) of the comments I am going to put on this page, but I don't mind at all. Even the Penguin Guide has a lot of detractors, so who am I to expect everyone to agree with me?

The rating is based solely on the performance and not on the quality of the sound, although in a few cases I do comment on the sound a little bit. I think that in this concerto, musicallity is a little more important than technique, and so ~6 points are allocated to the former and ~4 to the latter, although I don't always adhere to this rule. In most cases, I pay a lot more attention to the pianist than to the orchestra, and consequently, unless the orchestral part is exceptionally good or exceptionally bad, the rating does not take it into consideration. In many cases, we cannot directly compare the timing of one version with that of another, because different pianists use different cuts and first-movement cadenzas. In the "CADENZA & CUTS" column, I don't count the 2-measure cut in the climax of the cadenza. Also, I did that column in a hurry, and so there might be some errors.

It will take many months to write this page, so come back every once in a while to see if there is anything new here. Feel free to send me an email.


PIANIST CONDUCTOR LABEL DATE TIMING CADENZA & CUTS MY HIGHLY SUBJECTIVE COMMENTS RATING (out of 10)
Argerich, Martha Chailly Philips 12/1982 I:15'22 II:11'00 III:13'22 short;
no cuts
Very exciting! From a musical point of view, it is a near-disaster, but such incredible pianism! The tempo is way too fast, and it is obvious that she is trying to outplay Horowitz, but on the whole she still sounds pretty serious. This is quite unlike Cziffra, who turned everything into circus acts whenver he tried to show off. I have a non-commercial, pirated live recording of Argerich playing the same concerto, where she was much better behaved. Musically, the pirated recording is better, but I admit this Philips recording is more fun to listen to! 8
Ashkenazy, Vladimir Fistoulari Decca 3/1963 I:16'38 II:11'30 III:14'09 short;
no cuts
Among Ashkenazy’s four recordings of the Rach 3 that have been released on CD, this one sounds the most natural and is the most satisfying. It is probably the gentlest Rach 3 I have ever heard, and it is so gentle that it does not sound like Ashkenazy at all. Some people might think it is too weak, but I find this unique interpretation of this virtuosic piece quite convincing and interesting. I also much prefer the faster tempos used here than the constipated tempos in his renditions with Previn and Ormandy. This is his only Rach 3 recording where he plays the short first-movement cadenza. 8
Ashkenazy, Vladimir Previn Decca 3/1971 I:18'39 II:12'07 III:14'52 long;
no cuts
Some of you may have seen me bash this version on other pages of this site. Actually, I don't hate it THAT much--it is obvious from the scores I have given here that I dislike some other versions even more--but I think it is overhyped and it has been re-issued too many times by Decca. All of his other Rach 3's that I have heard are better. I just went to Amazon.com and 19 of the 20 reviews were very positive. What am I missing? It is not the poor sound quality that bothers me, because I have heard countless other recordings with worse sound. Instead, it is the extreme listlessness and lack of true passion that turn me off. His playing has plenty of volume changes and rubato and so I can't say he plays robotically (although the triplets section in the slow movement (8:50 - 9:50) does sound robotic), but somehow I am not moved the slightest bit. Especially boring is the second half of the 1st-movement cadenza, which is usually quite exciting in other pianists' renditions. And there are two specific things he does that I find really irritating, namely the sudden acceleration at both 1st movement 13:50 and 2nd movement 11:47. He plays these two spots exactly the same way in his other Rach 3's, but in those cases this problem is counterbalanced by the better performance of the rest of the piece and so it is not as big a problem. By the way, the Rach 2 from his same cycle with Previn is more satisfactory. 4.5
Ashkenazy, Vladimir Ormandy RCA 12/1975 I:18'28 II:12'02 III:15'25 long;
no cuts
Whereas his Rach 3 with Fistoulari is one of his gentlest recordings of anything, this one with Ormandy is one of his strongest and most exciting. In addition, his playing sounds unusually exaggerated (though it is still nothing compared to Horowitz), making it far more interesting than his lackluster rendition with Previn, although I wish it were faster. I admire the fact that he tries to do something different in each of his recordings. A problem with this recording is that both the orchestra and the piano sound abnormally harsh, and it is accentuated by Ashkenazy’s forceful attack. This is most likely an engineering rather than musical problem. I did not take off points for that, but I want you to be aware of it before buying the CD. 7
Ashkenazy, Vladimir Haitink Decca 8/1985 I:17'22 II:11'28 III:14'14 long;
no cuts
Ashkenazy’s most recent Rach 3 recording. It’s certainly more tolerable than his earlier version with Previn, mainly because it’s faster and because he has added more variety and vitality to his playing. However, many old problems are still present. Most notably, he still sounds too stiff, particularly when he tries to bring out the melody by hitting the top note in the right hand forcefully. And when he is so busy with the right-hand melody, his left hand often becomes inaudible. Also, he still can’t sustain interest in the long cadenza – I think he should go back to the short version, which seems to suit him better. 6
Berezovsky, Boris Inbal Teldec 7/1991 I:17'26 II:11'08 III:13'21 long;
1 in mvt 3
A light-handed performance. In this concerto, he is nowhere as impressive as in many of his solo recordings, although the unusually soft playing can be refreshing. The most memorable part is the chordal section (starting at 11:51) in the first-movement cadenza, which he plays very soulfully, and he makes one realize that these chords don't necessarily have to be banged out forcefully. 6.5
Bolet, Jorge Webb Lyra House 6/1969 I:15'16 II:9'32 III:12'28 short;
1 in mvt 2,
1 in mvt 3
Recorded at the peak of his career, this live recording is one of Bolet’s most phenomenal performances, and is also one of the finest Rach 3’s I have heard. The original release on Lyra House is impossible to find now, but you may still be able to get the more recent re-issue on Urania. It combines the strengths of three other famous versions: the romantic lyricism and ravishing tone of Cliburn’s RCA recording, the solid touch, sonority and precision of the Weissenberg/Pretre, and the scorching heat and abandon of the Wild/Horenstein. However, he occasionally sounds uncomfortably stiff, although it’s nowhere as bad as the stiffness he displays in his Decca recordings from the 1980s. He plays a rarely heard ossia in the piu vivo section in the second movement, at 4:40 in the recording. As he explains in the booklet accompanying his Decca recording of this concerto, this ossia is “less ‘busy’ or fussy than the original, though the left-hand double notes are much more taxing”. 9
Bolet, Jorge Fischer Decca 9/1982 I:17'00 II:11'11 III:15'35 short;
no cuts
In general, Bolet’s late recordings are stiflingly dull and should be avoided, and this Rach 3 is no exception. The worst is the third movement, which is among the slowest ever recorded, and it sounds even slower than the timing suggests. His technical capability is only a small fraction of what he used to possess, and yet he tries to be precise and accurate, and consequently he is extremely cautious and stiff. The only improvement over his previous recording is that except for the two bars in the climax of the first-movement cadenza, no other cuts are made. 4
Cherkassky, Shura Schwarz BBC 12/1957 I:16'10 II:11'03 III:13'47 short;
no cuts
A truly enjoyable performance. Not Cherkassky at his best, but close. As in all his other performances (of anything), he sounds very relaxed, so don't expect lots of fireworks. Although Cherkassky liked to play virtuoso pieces throughout his long career, he was never a bravura pianist. The two things I like the most are his wonderfully translucent tone, and his myriads of creative ideas. The latter is especially important for me, since I have heard well over 100 versions and am desperate to hear new things! Of course, just being different is not enough. His ideas are different AND good. There are quite a few instances where the soloist and the orchestra are out of synchrony, but they don't bother me at all. It is a highly spontaneous performance, and that's why it's not easy for the conductor to follow him. 9
Cherkassky, Shura Temirkanov Decca 11/1994 I:17'07 II:11'27 III:16'12 short;
no cuts
For someone his age, this is actually an impressive accomplishment. In fact, it's almost a miracle -- He was 83, and this is one of the most treacherously difficult pieces ever written for the instrument! However, I am not going to give him any "pity points" for his old age, and that's why it's getting only 5 out of 10 from me. Conceptually and stylistically, it shares quite a few similarities with his other, earlier recording with Schwarz, e.g. spontaneity, nice tone, etc., except that here he sounds much older (because he was!), more pensive, weaker, and extremely sloppy. 5
Cliburn, Van Kondrashin RCA 5/1958 I:17'24 II:10'37 III:14'31 long;
no cuts
Definitely one of my top three favorites. Like many people, the first time I listened to it I thought it was boring (especially since it's much slower than many other versions), but it grows on you after repeated listens. He plays with an amazing variety of emotions, and his tone is very special indeed. His overly "romantic" treatment of the first-movement cadenza is perhaps the only thing that I don't find perfectly convincing. 10
Gieseking, Walter Barbirolli Music & Arts 2/1939 I:16'47 II:9'48 III:12'47 long;
no cuts
Buy this only if you are a Gieseking fan or a Rach 3 fan, because in a way it is appalling. Actually, if you could filter out all the wrong notes, this performance is quite good. He is lyrical, and as in his Debussy, his approach is very natural. The ultra slow opening of the first movement works surprisingly well, and many other unusual things that he does also seem to make a lot of sense in his hands. If you only consider the interpretation, this is one of the better versions of this piece. Unfortunately, there are countless technical blemishes in this live performance, including many alterations that are more likely memory lapses than improvisations. I am usually pretty good at tolerating wrong notes, but there are just too many of them here. I bet he could have done a lot better, because Rachmaninoff is said to have been deeply impressed by Gieseking's performances of this work. 6
Gieseking, Walter Mengelberg Music & Arts 3/1940 I:15'58 II:9'19 III:12'15 long;
no cuts
Avoid this even if you are a Gieseking AND Rach 3 fan! This is THE worst version of this work. You can't imagine how bad it is until you listen to it. In his other version (with Barbirolli), I can still say something good about his interpretation, and die-hard Gieseking fans may still be able to forgive his wrong notes. But here, he is not musical at all, and he hits at least five times more wrong notes! It sounds like he was in a big hurry, and he plays the whole thing with an "I don't care" attitude. The cadenza is so horrendous that it's actually funny! This is the only version that can rival Helfgott's in terms of insanity! And the conductor can be equally insane at times. 1
Helfgott, David Copenhagen RCA 11/1995 I:17'18 II:10'29 III:13'37 long;
no cuts
This is the Rach 3 recording that everyone is making fun of. Ironically, it’s one of the best selling versions, because of the publicity generated by the movie SHINE. The worst thing is his technique, which is even more pitiful than Gieseking’s in his performance with Mengelberg (see above). Besides all those wrong notes, thousands of notes are omitted, the execution is ultra stiff, and long melodic lines are severely broken up. What I find interesting is that he actually played some of the most difficult passages almost perfectly (and this is a live recording), e.g. the left-hand octaves just before the climax in the third movement—this section has stumbled countless other pianists. My suspicion is that he does have a solid technical foundation, but his screwed-up brain causes his playing to be extremely unreliable. As far as his interpretation, illogical volume changes are the biggest problem. Most notably, he often plays sforzando at the least sensible places. However, occasionally, you do hear a bar or two that are well done, e.g. those descending chords in the middle of the first-movement cadenza are pretty good. But perhaps these bars really aren’t that good; it is the contrast they make with the rest of the performance that causes them to sound good! Anyway, if this is the only Rach 3 that you own, please get yourself a “real” recording by someone else. 1.5
Horowitz, Vladimir Coates EMI 12/1930 I:14'20 II:8'06 III:11'09 short;
3 in mvt 2,
2 in mvt 3
History's first Rach 3 recording. The most gentle of his 6 versions of this concerto, and somewhat bland to my ears--He just plays like a well-behaved kid. Horowitz himself hated it. However, it has none of the sometimes-offensive mannerisms he developed later, and there is more poetry than in his other recordings. It is puzzling why he omitted the glissando at the beginning of the third movement. Though a studio recording, it was made before editing was possible. 7
Horowitz, Vladimir Barbirolli APR 5/1941 I:14'16 II:8'40 III:10'47 short;
1 in mvt 2,
1 in mvt 3
The fastest Rach 3 on record, and Harold Schonberg claims it has to be the fastest public performance ever. Despite this super high speed, there are few wrong notes, and his execution sounds incredibly easy. Technically, Horowitz owned this piece, and no one else--Argerich, Volodos, Wild, etc.--even comes close. But playing the piano is not as simple as typing. He can hit the notes faster than anyone else, and extremely accurately too, but where is the music? From the very beginning till the end, all he does is rush rush rush, and the only thing he is saying to the listener is "Look at how fast I can play!". It is a totally thoughtless performance. A pirated recording. 5
Horowitz, Vladimir Koussevitzky Music & Arts 8/1950 I:15'47 II:10'03 III:12'05 short;
1 in mvt 2,
1 in mvt 3
On the whole, it sounds rather similar to his commercial recording made just 9 months later, although in this live performance, he is more mellow, plays with less conviction, technically sloppier, and seems to be not very attentive. There is an obvious mismatch with the orchestra in the first movement, but in the grand scheme of things, that is a minor problem, and I didn't take off points for that. Though not his worst recording of this concerto, I consider it to be the least significant. A pirated recording. 6
Horowitz, Vladimir Reiner RCA 5/1951 I:15'17 II:9'45 III:12'06 short;
1 in mvt 2,
1 in mvt 3
If you want to get only one Rach 3 by Horowitz, this is the one. It is a nice blend of virtuosity and musicality. With the benefit of editing in the studio, in terms of technique it is the most "perfect" of his 6 recordings, although it is not as astounding as his 1941 live performance. In this version, we hear a lot more interpretation than in his earlier recordings. It is clear that he now understands this piece much better than he did before. There are more interesting ideas, more contrasts, more variations, more feeling, and in general it sounds more Horowitzian. Unfortunately, the orchestra is captured very poorly. 9
Horowitz, Vladimir Ormandy RCA 1/1978 I:16'44 II:11'40 III:14'24 short;
no cuts
One of Horowitz's most controversial recordings. People either love it or hate it, and of course I belong to the former camp! Because it was Horowitz's first concerto performance in many years, he spent lots of time preparing for it, and the hard work paid off. This highly neurotic performance is filled with the deepest emotions, as well as profound insights that only a great musician who has been studying this work for half a century can have. Listen to it with an open mind, because this performance is very different from all others. Besides Horowitz's unconventional ideas, there are numerous wrong notes, and the piano sounds harsh, and these are things the listener must get used to in order to fully enjoy this marvelous performance. New York Phil/Ormandy's accompaniment gives Horowitz a nice support. 10
Horowitz, Vladimir Mehta DG 9/1978 I:16'01 II:11'12 III:14'05 short;
no cuts
I think this was the last Rach 3 performance from Horowitz's 1978 season, whereas the RCA recording made 8 months earlier was the first. He is more at ease and relaxed (maybe even tired) in this video recording with Mehta than in the Ormandy version. Because of this, I prefer the Ormandy version, which has more tension, creativity and eccentricity, making it more special. The more laid-back performance with Mehta sounds plain in comparison. Nevertheless, it is great to be able to watch him play. It is amazing that he generates such big volumes with so little movement. And it allows you to realize that he omits even more notes than you can hear from his audio recordings! 8
Hough, Stephen Litton Hyperion 2004 I:14'55 II:9'55 III:12'55 short;
no cuts
His technique is awesome, especially in light of the fact that it's a live performance, but throughout the piece he sounds too rushed. Not only the tempi chosen are very fast, but there is almost always not enough breathing space in between phrases. It sounds like all that he wants is to break the world record, and therefore he cannot afford to "waste" any time. The acoustics are also sub-optimal. However, this recording has gotten lots of rave reviews from other critics, so mine is a minority opinion. 5.5
Janis, Byron Munch RCA 12/1957 I:14'33 II:10'00 III:12'44 short;
1 in mvt 3
This is among the most virtuosic versions of the Rach 3. Janis’ playing sounds a lot like his teacher Horowitz’s, but it doesn’t breathe as comfortably as the Horowitz/Reiner performance. It is highly charged throughout the piece, but perhaps too much, because I prefer to hear more moments of rest, especially in the first movement. When I listen to it, I sometimes feel a little irritated. The overexcited orchestra also contributes to the problem. However, I do enjoy the third movement, where it’s okay to be a little “too exciting”. 7.5
Janis, Byron Dorati Mercury 6/1961 I:14'38 II:10'06 III:12'38 short;
1 in mvt 3
Though recorded only three and a half years after his other version, this is a vastly different rendition. In his other performance, Janis seems to be trying hard to prove that he can do what his teacher can do, but this time he takes it easy. He is much more relaxed and composed, even though there is still plenty of electricity. Everything is more moderate, and in general he is more mature musically. Both the pianist and the orchestra are in better control of themselves, and sound more polished. All three movements sound substantially slower than in the other performance, but this is not simply due to differences in tempi, because the timings are actually very similar. This recording has a specific improvement over the previous one that I want to point out: In the RCA recording, he slowed down in both Più mosso passages in the third movement (that’s where the two hands make big jumps in contrary directions), but this time he does it right and speeds up instead. While I enjoy this performance more than the over-the-top version on RCA, I admit it sounds relatively commonplace. Incidentally, the pitch of this recording seems a bit too high, a defect that will hopefully be corrected in the future. 8.5
Kissin, Evgeny Ozawa RCA 1/1993 I:18'25 II:10'53 III:14'29 long;
no cuts
One of Kissin's worst recordings, and also one of the worst Rach 3's I have heard. As far as his mechanism is concerned, there is nothing to complain about--In fact, it's beautifully polished. But both the pianist and the orchestra are dreadfully dull, and the inferior acoustics doesn't help. The only thing that some might find interesting is the ossia passage between 8:42 and 8:48 in the third movement. This passage is so rarely played because it is treacherously difficult. I wonder how much time he spent practicing just those few measures. But unless you are curious about what those 6 seconds sound like, avoid this CD. 3.5
Kocsis, Zoltan de Waart Philips 10/1983 I:13'52 II:9'53 III:13'23 short;
no cuts
It’s about as insanely fast as Hough/Litton’s version, but it’s more comfortable to listen to Kocsis because he uses a lot more ritardandos and pauses at appropriate moments, allowing the music to breathe more naturally. Kocsis also seems to be technically more at ease than Hough, though part of that could simply be due to editing (this is a studio recording, whereas Hough’s is live). Despite the neck breaking speed, Kocsis’ touch is pretty delicate and thus the overall performance doesn’t sound very showy, reminding me of the composer’s own recording. While many people might enjoy the fast tempi used, I think slower tempi would allow him to pay more attention to details and to bring out more emotions. All I hear is lots and lots of notes in many parts of the outer movements, and that’s why on the whole I enjoy his slow-enough (but still quite fast!) second movement more. 7
Lang, Lang Temirkanov Telarc 8/2001 I:17'39 II:11'11 III:14'11 long;
no cuts
Lang Lang is often accused of pounding thoughtlessly just to show off, and has been given the nickname "Bang Bang". While I agree that he is rather thoughtless in this performance, I am surprised by how timid he sounds in the first two movements. I say "timid" not just because of his overly subdued volume, but also because he fails to bring out a strong message – when I listen to him I just keep wondering what he is trying to do. He is noticeably less mentally and physically involved in the first two movements than in the finale. If that's because he wants to reserve his energy for the taxing third movement, then that's okay, but if the reason is he thinks the third movement is the only thing that matters in this concerto, then that's a real pity. Of course, I hope the former is the case. Though by now you can tell that I don't like this performance very much, there are several spots that are worth praising. In the first four measures of the chordal part of the 1st movement (8:25 – 8:31), I like his emphasis of the last three chords in the 2nd and 4th measures. In the 3rd movement at 0:55 - 1:00, he nicely brings out a melody in the left hand which no one else seems to emphasize. At 11:47 – 11:57 in the same movement, the very subdued sound works unexpectedly well. Finally, it is worth mentioning that his first-movement cadenza sounds an awful lot like Cliburn's in his RCA recording, which of course doesn't help Lang Lang because I don't like Cliburn's treatment of this cadenza (see above). 5
Orlovetsky, Alexei Titov Infinity Digital 1993? I:17'59 II:10'54 III:15'50 long;
no cuts
Pathetically dull! He plays mezzoforte pretty much throughout the whole piece, and sounds really stiff. There is not a single bar that I enjoy! It's no wonder that Sony issued it in their super budget line, Infinity Digital ($4 per disc)! 2
Pletnev, Mikhail Rostropovich DG 9/2002 I:17'13 II:10'57 III:13'20 long;
1 in mvt 3
Disappointing. I was hoping to hear something similar to his exhilarating rendition of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody no.9. Instead, most of the performance is rather subdued. Like many of his other recordings, his playing often sounds random, e.g. suddenly slowing down for no good reason, and this causes each movement to sound somewhat fragmented. In my opinion, Pletnev is still better at short pieces. 5.5
Rachmaninoff, Sergei Ormandy RCA 12/1939 & 2/1940 I:13'51 II:8'38 III:11'20 short;
many cuts
Naturally, we are all curious about how the composer himself played this concerto, and what we hear is a big surprise. His style is totally divergent from most performances of this work that we are used to nowadays. Most remarkably, it is a very humble performance that’s nothing like the ego-centric renditions by Horowitz, Argerich, and many others. The tempi are very fast, but they don’t sound fast at all, probably because his playing is rather gentle throughout, and showing off seems to be the last thing he wants to do. His interpretation is so unostentatious and straightforward that some may find it boring. However, it does have one of the most exciting first-movement cadenzas on record, and this cadenza alone is well worth the price of this CD, especially if you buy the budget-priced but reputedly excellent transfer on Naxos. Also impressive is his legendary tone, which is particularly spellbinding in the slow movement. It is interesting that he often doesn’t follow the score, e.g. ritardando at the end of the first movement (where the score indicates poco accel. al fine), and slowing down substantially in both piu mosso sections of the third movement. So, if pianists today want to follow the composer’s wishes, should they follow the score or this recording? This reinforces my belief that classical performers should simply do whatever they think makes sense. 7
Volodos, Arcadi Levine Sony 6/1999 I:16'16 II:10'47 III:13'33 long;
no cuts
Impeccable! And believe it or not, it is a live performance! Everything he does is "right", but it would be even better if he could take more chances. He seems to be so afraid of doing something wrong, that he sounds academic and somewhat impersonal. So, here we have a perfect but not so memorable performance. Equipped with such a phenomenal technique (and he started seriously learning the piano at the advanced age of 15!), he is capable of doing many things that others can only dream about. He should let himself go and try different things. 8.5
Weissenberg, Alexis Pretre RCA 11/1967 I:16'24 II:11'41 III:14'51 short;
no cuts
Full of tension, but it often gets too strong. I wonder if it is the result of microphones being placed too close to the piano. It is somewhat lacking in emotions, and the narrow range of tonal variations adds to the dryness of the playing. He does not seem to be interested in bringing out the melody in chordal passages. All of his fingers attack with equal strength, and I think his playing would be more interesting if he could emphasize certain notes, or at least one of the two hands, to convey a clearer message to the listener. Nevertheless, I appreciate his highly focused, muscular sound, which works well in many parts of the piece. 7.5
Weissenberg, Alexis Bernstein EMI 9/1979 I:17'29 II:12'56 III:15'55 short;
no cuts
Usually, when someone re-records the same piece, it's because s/he wants to say something new, or remedy problems in the first attempt. Therefore it's puzzling to me why Weissenberg made this recording, where all the shortcomings of his earlier recording with Pretre are not only retained, but actually exacerbated. The execution is shockingly stiff, and he gets disgustingly forceful at various spots, pounding like a madman. It is extremely dry, robotic, and sluggish. The most salient new thing in this recording is the much slower tempo, which makes some of the problems in his interpretation all the more unbearable. No wonder it hasn't been re-issued on CD, except in Japan (where everything is re-issued, regardless of quality!). 4
Wild, Earl Horenstein Chandos 5 & 6/1965 I:14'52 II:8'42 III:11'34 short;
1 in mvt 2,
2 in mvt 3
It has a similar style to Argerich/Chailly's and Horowitz/Barbirolli's: They are all very fast, loud, and showy. It may sound exciting the first time one hears it, but after listening to it a few more times, it quickly loses its appeal, because it seriously lacks passion and intelligence. Once again, this illustrates that treating this concerto as a mere showpiece won't cut it. Wild's playing deserves a 4 out of 10 at most, but I added one point to salute the orchestra for its impressively rich sound. 5

Last Update: February 22, 2005