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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

LEBRECHT LISTENS | Everywhere You Look Is Rachmaninov, Rachmaninov, Rachmaninov

By Norman Lebrecht on April 7, 2017

Khatia Buniatishvili Photo: Esther Haase)
Khatia Buniatishvili Photo: Esther Haase)

Rachmaninov: Piano Concertos 2 and 3 (Sony Classical)

★★ (out of five)

It’s raining Rachmaninov concertos and I’m not sure the roof can take any more. The past couple of weeks have brought Vanessa Benelli Mosell on Decca, Marc-André Hamelin on Hyperion and now the exuberant Khatia Buniatishvili on Sony. Benelli and Hamelin both play with London orchestras, neither sounding on peak form. Khatia is seriously challenged by the Czech Philharmonic, who are in terrific shape under Paavo Järvi’s baton.

Benelli’s pairing for the C minor concerto is the Corelli Variations, which she does rather well. Hamelin matches the D minor concerto with Nikolai Medtner’s long-neglected second concerto, a curiosity that falls far short of top billing.

Buniatishvili sticks to the tried and tested, playing Rachmaninov’s two popular concertos back to back. She has an arresting, languid opening for C minor concerto and sets off several times on dazzling runs without ever leaving the listener in full confidence that she knows where she going. The flute solo in the Adagio merits five stars. Why do record labels always credit the executive producer and never the orchestra soloists?

Rachmaninoff Piano Concertos No. 2 & 3 Import Khatia Buniatishvili, Paavo Järvi (Conductor)
Rachmaninoff Piano Concertos No. 2 & 3 | Khatia Buniatishvili and Paavo Järvi. 2017 (Sony Classical)

In the D minor concerto, the conductor sets a stiffer pace, encouraging the pianist to break a few personal records. She’s formidably precise and generally appealing. What I miss on record is the intoxicating physicality of her stage persona; it just doesn’t come through. She makes the finale sound like a morning workout. These are brilliant contemporary performances, commendable in every way, yet — after three hearings — curiously unmemorable (I suppose the label will quote just the first nine words of this last sentence).

Rachmaninov: Piano Concertos 2 and 3 (Sony Classical) is available at Amazon.com and iTunes.

For more weekly reviews by Norman Lebrecht, see HERE.

Visit Slipped Disc HERE.

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Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.

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