RACHMANINOV: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 in F sharp minor & 2 in D minor; Preludes: Op. 23 No. 1; Op. 32 Nos. 9, 10 & 12 – Sviatoslav Richter, piano/ Leningrad Philharmonic Orch./ USSR Radio-TV State Sym./ Kurt Sanderling – Melodiya/Praga Digitals stereo-only SACD PRD/DSD 350 056, 75:40 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:
Before his international career really began in 1960, Richter recorded Rachmaninov’s first two piano concertos in the Soviet Union. This SACD is filled out with four of the composer’s Preludes which were Richter’s favorites for the next 50 years. There is a Philips double-CD of these same recordings plus more Preludes, Etudes, Waldszenen, Fantasiestucke and Fantasies, but the SACD remastering is greatly improved sonically, though it still suffers from a bit of a wooden sound endemic to all Soviet recordings of the period.
The Rachmaninov Second Concerto – which opens the SACD – is such a pot-boiler now that I was expecting even Richter to be unable to bring anything worthwhile to it. I was wrong. He is not phased by the super-Romantic familiar themes and integrates them well into the fabric of the concerto, making it most enjoyable listening. The First Concerto is shorter and more concise, and receives a stunning performance from Richter. The filler Preludes are also played with great sensitivity.
A few classical labels have been issuing stereo-only or even mono remasterings of historical recordings such as this one, and I think it is a wonderful use of the SACD format. The new EMI Signature Series is the latest from a major label.
Pure Pleasure Records releases a re-mastered live vinyl of a great tenor saxophonist.