A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.
This Super Hot Stamper (or better) original Colorback Mercury pressing is not only the BEST sounding copy we have ever heard, it also boasts the quietest side one we’ve experienced, playing mostly Mint Minus. For a fifty year old Mercury that is QUIET.
Not only is the sound amazing — yes, it’s on the TAS Super Disc list, and for good reason, a copy as good as this one really is a Super Disc — but this copy has another vitally important characteristic that most copies of the record do not: virtually no Inner Groove Distortion.
We can’t begin to count the times we have had to return (or toss) a copy of this very record because the piano breakup for the last inch or two of the record was just unbearable. That’s a sound no serious listener could possibly tolerate, yet I would venture to guess that MOST Mercury Piano Concerto recordings suffer from this kind of groove damage.
Enough about those typically bad copies, let’s talk about how good this one is!
This side is interesting., I would say that it starts out Super Hot (A++) and within a few minutes becomes White Hot (A+++). The piano is a bit veiled at the start, but within a relatively short period of time that subtle loss of transparency disappears and the piano is RIGHT THERE.
This is not unusual in our experience. The first track on many records can sound dull, and by the second track the highs come back and the tonality is right from top to bottom. Who knows why? We speculate that the vinyl did not have time to fully heat up the edge of the record, but that’s speculation, something that has almost no value in our (yours and mine) quest for better sounding records. 1A, 1B, first off the stamper, who gives a flying you-know-what. You have to play the record to know its sound. The rest is BS, proffered by those who are simply too lazy to do the work of actually cleaning and playing multiple copies of an album to know how they sound (you know who I mean).
The sound is very rich and natural, with lovely transparency and virtually no smear. The surfaces are quiet and there is no IGD at all, not on our rig anyway.
A++, with all the texture and transparency we heard on side one. The strings are PERFECTION — truly Demo Disc quality.
The piano however does not quite have the weight it does on side one, so we knocked a plus off, putting this one at A++.
Only the last quarter inch has the slightest amount of groove damage on the loudest piano peaks. We’ve never heard one that played cleaner all the way through, I can tell you that.
What an amazing recording! What an amazing piece of music!
The Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30, composed in 1909 by Sergei Rachmaninoff (colloquially known as “Rach 3”) is famous for its technical and musical demands on the performer. It has the reputation of being one of the most technically challenging piano concertos in the standard classical repertoire.
Rachmaninoff called the Third the favorite of his own piano concertos, stating that “I much prefer the Third, because my Second is so uncomfortable to play.” Nevertheless, it was not until the 1930s and largely thanks to the advocacy of Vladimir Horowitz that the Third concerto became popular.
Following the form of a standard concerto, the piece is in three movements:
- Allegro ma non tanto (D minor)
The first movement revolves around a diatonic melody that soon develops into complex pianistic figuration. The second theme opens with quiet exchanges between the orchestra and the piano before fully diving into a slower theme in a major key. The first part of the first theme is restated before the movement is pulled into a loud development section which opens with toccata like quavers in the piano and reaches a loud chordal section. The whole development exhibits features similar to a canon, such as an eighth note passage in the piano in which the left hand and the right hand play overlapping figures. The movement reaches a number of ferocious climaxes, especially in the cadenza. The first theme in its full form reappears just before the coda. Rachmaninoff wrote two versions of this cadenza: the chordal original, which is commonly notated as the ossia, and a second one with a lighter, toccata-like style. In his recording of the concerto, the composer used the second cadenza. Both cadenzas lead into a quiet solo section including the flute, clarinet and horn accompanied by delicate arpeggios in the piano. The piano then restates the first theme in its entirety and closes with a tutti, silent, rippling coda reminiscent of the second theme.
2. Intermezzo: Adagio (F sharp minor/D flat major)
The second movement is opened by the orchestra and it consists of a number of variations around a single lush, heavily romantic melody following one another without a rigid scheme. The melody soon transitions to a tonic major which is the second theme. After the first theme development and recapitulation of the second theme, the main melody from the first movement reappears, before the movement is “closed” by the orchestra in a manner similar to the introduction. Then the piano gets the last word in with a short “cadenza-esque” passage which transitions into the last movement without pause. Many melodic thoughts of this movement allude to Rachmaninoff’s second piano concerto, third movement, noticeably the Russian-like, E-flat major melody.
3. Finale: Alla breve (D minor ? D major)
The third movement is quick and vigorous and contains variations on many of the themes that are used in the first movement, which unites the whole concerto cyclically. However, after the first and second themes it diverges from the regular sonata-allegro form. There is no conventional development; that segment is replaced by a lengthy digression using the major key of the third movement’s first theme, which then leads to the two themes from the first movement. After the digression, the movement recapitulation returns to the original themes, building up to a toccata climax somewhat similar but lighter than the first movement ossia cadenza and accompanied by the orchestra. The last movement is concluded with a triumphant and passionate second theme melody in D major. The piece ends with the same four-note rhythm – claimed by some to be the composer’s musical signature – as the composer’s second concerto.
Rachmaninoff authorized several cuts in the score, to be made at the performer’s discretion. These cuts, particularly in the second and third movements, were commonly taken in performance and recordings during the initial decades following the Concerto’s publication. More recently, it has become commonplace to perform the concerto without cuts. A typical performance of the complete concerto lasts about forty minutes.