- Piano Concerto No. 1 in F sharp minor, Op. 1 - Sergey Rachmaninov - Leif Ove Andsnes - Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra - Antonio Pappano - Paul Mitchell - Paul Mitchell
- Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18 - Sergey Rachmaninov - Leif Ove Andsnes - Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra - Antonio Pappano - Paul Mitchell - Paul Mitchell
With Leif Ove Andsnes' 1995 recording of the Rachmaninoff Third Piano Concerto -- one of his first releases -- already inducted into EMI's Great Artists of the Century series, the sequel at hand is long overdue. And if Andsnes has sometimes been thought to have a rather cool approach to the Romantic repertoire, these performances of Rachmaninoff's First and Second should lay that criticism to rest once and for all. These may not be the most fiery interpretations on disc, but the pianist's refusal to distort the music doesn't mean that there's a lack of impetuous ardor. Yet what sets these readings apart is the robust underpinning that supports Rachmaninoff's dreamy lyrical flights -- supplied not only by the soloist but also by Antonio Pappano's firm direction of the Berlin Philharmonic. Indeed, the orchestra's beautiful playing is scarcely less crucial to the success of this disc than the pianist's; Andsnes and Berlin make a highly sympathetic team, as their Grieg and Schumann disc has previously demonstrated. Somewhat ironically, while this recording of the Second Concerto comes from a live concert -- and a very fine one at that -- it's the First Concerto, captured in the studio the next day, that has even more heat-of-the-moment intensity, especially in the thrilling finale. But in both works, Andsnes dispatches the technical fireworks and the soaring melodies with equal flair, forcing the listener to concur with the enthusiastic "Bravo" that greets the end of the Second Concerto, even before the final chord dies away.