Following their album of French music for two pianos, father and son Vladimir and Vovka Ashkenazy revel in their musical heritage with this dazzling programme by the great composers of Russia, with Rachmaninov's two-piano Suite No.1 at its heart. Three of the works have been arranged by Vovka Ashkenazy himself, including Mussorgsky's Night On The Bald Mountain and the album's virtuosic finale - Borodin's Polovtsian Dances from his opera Prince Igor. His two-piano arrangement of Glinka's lilting Valse-fantaisie is itself based on Sergei Lyapunov's arrangement for four hands. The two works originally written for two pianos are Rachmaninov's poetic Suite no 1, Op. 5 "Fantaisie Tableaux" (which the young composer dedicated to another giant of Russian music - Piotr Tchaikovsky) and the Fantasy in A minor by Rachmaninov's contemporary at the Moscow Conservatoire, Scriabin.
The Rachmaninov Piano Concertos performed by Vladimir Ashkenazy and the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by André Previn are among the most iconic recordings in the Decca Classics catalogue. For the first time in over 40 years, the recordings have been remastered in ultra-high quality 96kHz 24-bit audio at Abbey Road Studios.
Legendary Russian pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy is considered the pre-eminent interpreter of Rachmaninov’s music, and as he marked his seventy-fifth birthday (6 July 2012), he recorded a final album of the composer’s music featuring the Seven Pieces (Moments Musicaux) Op.10, three Nocturnes, and ten shorter early works, including an unpublished 'Song without Words'.
Ashkenazy Completes Lifelong Project To Record Each Of Rachmaninov’s Works With Piano. Vladimir Ashkenazy, one of the most renowned and revered pianists of our times, crowns his lifelong project to record each of Rachmaninov’s works with piano with the release of Rachmaninov Piano Trios. He performs the composer’s Trio élégiaque No. 1 in G minor and the Trio élégiaque No. 2 in D minor Op. 9.
Vladimir Ashkenazy's love of Rachmaninov's music is evident not only on the keyboard, but also at the podium. His conducting of Rachmaninov's music is absolutely first rate, with an ample mix of passion and precision. I am certain that these fine recordings undoubtedly helped raise his stature as a noteworthy conductor. Under his direction, Bernard Haitink's Concertgebouw Orchestra gives distinguished, technically perfect performances steeped in emotion. Their level of playing is superior to the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra's under Lorin Maazel's baton (Maazel and the BPO recorded a set of Rachmaninov's symphonies for Deutsche Grammophon around the time of Ashkenazy's recordings.). The best performance of Ashkenazy's Rachmaninov cycle has to be that of the Second Symphony, but the others, especially those of the tone poems, are almost as good too. Of course, Decca's sound engineers did a wonderful job capturing the Concertgebouw's (the orchestra's hall, that is) warm acoustics. If these aren't the definitive recordings of Rachmaniov's symphonies, then they ought to be.
Vladimir Ashkenazy's way with the Rachmaninov Second Piano Concerto noticeably mellowed in the years between his blistering 1963 premiere recording on Decca with Kirill Kondrashin and this 1986 reading. That's not to say it became mushy or dull, but it is certainly heavier, characterized by a prevailing darkness that calls to mind Stravinsky's description of Rachmaninov as a "six-foot scowl." Ashkenazy's rich tone and emphatic phrasing assures an overall somber cast, while Bernard Haitink draws similarly-countenanced playing from the Concertgebouw Orchestra–the low strings especially. However, there is a respite from the gloom in the quite touching rendition of the lyrical slow movement.
Concerto No. 4 is supposedly a lighter work, but it's hard to tell in Ashkenazy's equally stern reading. Again he summons robust tone from his instrument and manages to make the first movement's main theme sound uniquely grim. For his part, Haitink heightens the drama with threatening horns in the second movement. Even so, the performers render the brighter finale with the requisite zest. Decca had only recently begun recording in the Concertgebouw, and it shows in the sound's abundant reverberation and early digital glare. Still, the sense of space and sonic bulk communicated by the recording matches the performances, and for some listeners this will be preferable to the dynamically limited sound of Ashkenazy's interpretively superior 1970s renditions with André Previn.Victor Carr, Jr., Classics Today