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Rachmaninoff Plays Rachmaninoff: The 4 Piano

Unlike most composer/pianists, Rachmaninoff's instrumental prowess was fully commensurate with his creative gifts. He embraces his youthful First Concertos as if he had encountered an old lover, consumating his passion with stupefying fingerwork in the first movement cadenza. Conversely, the composer seems bored in the Third. He laconically dispatches its torrents of notes, opts for the easier ossias in difficult passages, and makes cuts in the first and third movements. And pianists like Arturo Michelangeli and Earl Wild have recorded more incisive, demonic Rach Fourths. No question about the Paganini Rhapsody and Second Concerto, where Rachmaninoff's fierce authority and luscious, molten tone permeate every bar. RCA's transfers, however, could have been better. --Jed Distler

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