Classical Reissue Reviews

RACHMANINOV: Piano Concerto No. 2; Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini – Benno Moiseiwitshc, p./ Philharmonia Orch./ Sir Malcolm Sargent/ London Philharmonic Orch./ Walter Goehr/ Basil Cameron – Pristine

Benno Moiseiwitsch, the proclaimed heir to the Rachmaninov style, performs a trio of the Master's works in superheated, brilliant performances.

Published on October 26, 2012

RACHMANINOV: Piano Concerto No. 2; Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini – Benno Moiseiwitshc, p./ Philharmonia Orch./ Sir Malcolm Sargent/ London Philharmonic Orch./ Walter Goehr/ Basil Cameron – Pristine

RACHMANINOV: Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18; Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43 – Benno Moiseiwitshc, p./ Philharmonia Orch./ Sir Malcolm Sargent (Op. 1)/ London Philharmonic Orch./ Walter Goehr (Op. 18)/ Basil Cameron (Op. 43) – [avail. in various formats from:] Pristine Audio PASC 358, 78:19 ****:

Benno Moiseiwitsch (1890-1963) continues to justify his repute as composer Sergei Rachmaninov’s favorite pianist, especially in the music of that master himself, recorded 1937-1948, when Moiseiwitsch was playing at the height of his powers.  Most impressive, this  Odessa-born pianist exerts a virtually seamless lyricism and power, thoroughly secure technically and beautifully nuanced.  The F-sharp Minor Concerto (rec. 23 December 1948) certainly propels us forward, the restored sound by Andrew Rose especially pungent. The last movement, with its knotty metrics that extend into 9/8 before the thrilling coda, pose no obstacles for Moiseiwitsch, who  produces a singing tone in the midst of the most gnarled layers of sound.

Perhaps the most exciting collaboration on this rarified disc, the C Minor Concerto (rec. 24 November & 19 December 1937) opens with a massive pendulum of block chords from Moiseiwitsch, and the familiar melodies burst forth that culminate in the thunderous crescendo between piano and orchestra known to every music-lover. The otherwise under-rated Walter Goehr (1903-1960), most noted for his work with Noel Mewton-Wood, achieves his own majesty of sound in this potent inscription. The LPO cello sound emerges in full regalia, rendering the second and third movements particularly lush.

No less an unabashed pleasure, the Paganini Rhapsody (rec. 5 December 1938) under Cameron moves at a spectacularly breathless pace, Moiseiwitsch deliberately approaching the violin’s spiccati and glissandi in pianistic terms. Besides the innate drama created by the music’s architecture, culminating in an extended and mysterious love-scene at Variation 18, the final set reaches beyond its own virtuosity to imitate the pyrotechnics of Paganini in the throes of the Devil’s own possession, the Dies Irae blazing while the keyboard leaps in explosive figures. That the performance of 1937 still proves hair-raising testifies to an endurance beyond the mere notes.  Any devotee of Rachmaninov’s romantic style and virtuosic keyboard wizardry will covet these priceless Moiseiwitsch restorations.

—Gary Lemco




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