RACHMANINOV: Piano Concerto Nos. 3 & 4 – Leif Ove Andnes, p./ London Sym. Orch./ Antonio Pappano – EMI

by | Dec 15, 2011 | Classical CD Reviews

RACHMANINOV: Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30; Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Minor, Op. 40 – Leif Ove Andnes, piano/ London Sym. Orch./ Antonio Pappano – EMI Classics 6 40516 2, 67:14 **** :
Despite the rather glum expression on the face of Leif Ove Andnes on the jacket cover, these performances of the latter two Rachmaninov concertos (7-10 March 2009 and 30 April-1 May 2010) bristle with optimistic excitement, and the D Minor Concerto enjoys a tremendous sweep and panache. Collectors may recall via the breadth of the Andnes reading an equally compelling account of the D Minor “long version” from the Melodiya division of EMI that featured Yevgeny Mogilevsky and Kirill Kondrashin, among my preferred performances. Like Mogilevsky, Andnes favors the extended cadenza, almost incurring the famous quip from Amadeus, “too many notes.”  The pacing and suave evolution of the first movement, the studied melancholy of the Intermezzo, and the rather swashbuckling approach to the Alla breve finale guarantee this recording’s enduring shelf life among Rachmaninov aficionados.
For the 1927 G Minor Concerto (rev. 1941) Andnes has a virile affection, much in the same class with the classic rendition by Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, and the same desire to impart a kinship of the work with Liszt’s E-flat Concerto touched by Ravel.  The motif of the second movement Largo has been likened to Three Blind Mice, but its plain setting becomes, between Andnes and Pappano, a moody nocturne, laconic in its bluesy way until it descends into a passing torrent and then to a new level of resignation on the opening theme. The third movement Allegro vivace maintains a decided martial affect even with its big romantic theme that perhaps too much echoes the D Minor Concerto formula. More than once allusions to Prokofiev’s works and means seem evident, explosions and stunning runs included. The cyclical return of the first movement’s aggressive riffs has Andnes’ negotiating some tricky metrics over a snare drum and then strings and winds. The last pages light up rather Hollywood-voluptuously to my taste, but Andnes makes them resound with tonic force. Conductor Pappano, who already impressed us with his Rachmaninov E Minor Symphony inscription, asserts himself equally well here.
—Gary Lemco

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