Rachmaninoff – Piano Concerto No. 3 / Janis / Dorati

The music of Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)

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  • Stunning sound for this classic Byron Janis Mercury album with a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two mated with an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The piano is huge and weighty, the strings rich and highly resolving, and the overall presentation is powerful, balanced, dynamic and exciting like few other piano concerto recordings we have ever had the pleasure to audition
  • Not only is this the consistently best sounding copy we have had to offer in years, but we are happy to report that the vinyl is especially quiet for a vintage Plum Label Mercury stereo pressing

Fine and Cozart

The piano is huge and powerful, yet the percussive and lighter qualities of the instrument are heard clearly and in proper relation to the orchestra as a whole.

I simply cannot criticize the work that Fine and Cozart have achieved with this recording, and believe me, there are very few records in this world about which I could not find something to criiticize. It is, after all, our job, and we like to set VERY high standards for the work we do.

What We’re Listening For on Janis’s Amazing Piano Concerto Recordings for Mercury

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

If you’re in the market for quality classical recordings these days you know that finding quiet, tonally correct Mercury pressings is no easy task. So many are noisy or groove damaged, especially on this title. If the record has been played too many times on the typical turntable of the day, the piano will break up like crazy whenever Janis starts to pound away, which is something this work calls for throughout. Regrettably, we’ve had to trade in more than our share of great sounding, groove-damaged Golden Age recordings over the years.

A Must Own Concerto

This wonderful work for piano and orchestra — one of the greatest ever composed — should be part of any serious Classical Collection.

Others that belong in that category can be found here.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Allegro Non Tanto

Side Two

Intermezzo: Adagio
Finale: Alla Breve

Review

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:

1.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.

-Wikipedia