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  Hyperion -
  SACDA67501/2 (2 discs)
  Rachmaninov: Piano Concertos (complete) - Stephen Hough
  Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 1 in F sharp minor Op. 1, Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor Op. 18, Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor Op. 30, Piano Concerto No. 4 in G minor Op. 40, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op. 43

Stephen Hough (piano)
Dallas Symphony Orchestra
Andrew Litton (conductor)
Track listing:
  Classical - Orchestral
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Related titles: 3

Reviews: 8 show all

Review by nickc March 8, 2005 (12 of 16 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
You don't know how much I didn't want to report my feelings on these discs this way, but I must report what I feel: magnificent performances emasculated by a low-level and distant recording. This is Rachmaninov for heaven's sake - it could have been Debussy the way the strings sound! If you're not going to present an orchestra with hearts unashamedly on their sleeves in this of all repertoires what's the point? Iím sure the Dallas Symphony played their hearts out but the strings especially have had a disservice done to them.
Hough is absolutely magnificent, apocalyptic I even called it in my earlier post, but there are even problems with how he is presented. For some reason it is a 4.0 not 5.0 recording resulting in the dreaded 20 foot wide piano syndrome. I'm generally not dogmatic on this point but for concertos of all pieces put the soloist in the centre surrounded by the orchestra, just like they are in real life.
I'll discuss the performances now, which, as I have said, are totally awe-inspiring, even though I don't always agree with some of the interpretative choices. I felt Ashkenazy brought even greater weight to the 1st. movement cadenza in No.1, but once again it could be the fault of the recording. One thing I disagreed with was in the slow movement of this concerto, when, at the great rising climax (around 4.40 and on) Hough plays the chords staccato, almost trivialising them. Once again listen to Ashkenazy here and listen to how beautifully he plays it.
I had Rachmaninov's own recordings a while ago and I remember he played 2 and 3 a lot faster than we have latterly become accustomed to but I still don't like the start of the 2nd. to go by so almost casually. This is the sound of tolling bells, one of the deepest and most evocative sounds to Russians. Listen to Richter here and how much greater and grander he sounds, even though his tempo is probably slower than the composer wanted.
The 3rd. is a fantastic performance but, by now, I was wondering if Hough could have slowed down just a little. It reminds me of Argerichís recording of Lisztís Sonata: absolutely awe-inspiring as playing but she was so fast she seemed to steamroll everything in her path without allowing the music to breathe.
The 4th. is once again hampered by a low-level recording: it sounds as like we are at the very back of the hall. The Paganini Rhapsody is played beautifully.
Once again Iíll say Houghís playing is stupendous throughout the whole set: if youíre not cheering by the end of the 2nd. Concerto thereís something wrong with you! For me a missed opportunity to capture some of the most exciting Rachmaninov playing Iíve ever heard.

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Review by Jay-dub June 7, 2007 (6 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Other familiar recordings are --
3, Argerich/Chailly
2&4, Ashkenazy/Haitink
2&3, Rachmaninov/Stokowski and Ormandy
3, Lang/Temirkanov
3, Ashkenazy/Ormandy
Rhapsody, Pennario/Fiedler
2, Cliburn/Reiner

Hough's playing brings out the musical values of these concertos more than that of any other pianist I've heard. You hear, under impeccable technical control, a dazzling interplay of motives, delicately shaped melodies, dancing inner parts, innumerable coloristic effects. This style of Rachmaninov playing appeals to our intelligence. If you want a smouldering sensuality, go for Argerich, if you want to be engulfed in a sense of hugeness, go for any of numerous other recordings.

The Dallas orchestra plays fine, with a lot of portamenti (all to the good), but with the first and second violins massed together on the left. Athough Rachmaninov certainly approved this practice in Philadelphia, where it first became common, this seating loses color when compared to the old-fashioned seating with the violins split antiphonally. You can hear the antiphonal seating to good effect in Temirkanov's recording of #3 - wonderful orchestral playing, that (with an exuberant if not very subtle soloist in Lang Lang).

The sound quality on this set varies noticeably from one concerto to the next. #2 and the Rhapsody sound best, while #3 has a slightly ugly piano sound (you'll get used to it, though). The RBCD is well-balanced but lacks vividness; the SACD stereo has significantly improved piano and orchestral tone colors. I have not heard the MCH; it is reputedly not worth hearing.

All in all, this set supercedes every other recording of these pieces that I have heard with the exception of the Argerich, but I am in the market for some good recording with my preferred orchestral seating.

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Review by krisjan November 11, 2004 (6 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
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Works: 5  

Sergei Rachmaninov - Piano Concerto No. 1 in F sharp minor, Op. 1
Sergei Rachmaninov - Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18
Sergei Rachmaninov - Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30
Sergei Rachmaninov - Piano Concerto No. 4 in G minor, Op. 40
Sergei Rachmaninov - Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43