- Symphonic Dances, for orchestra (or 2 pianos), Op. 45
- Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30
Garrick Ohlsson is much better known for his elegant recordings of the piano music of Frédéric Chopin than he is for his forays into Russian music, but this 2011 release of Sergey Rachmaninov's "Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor" shows that he brings the same kind of polish and depth of expression to this monumental post-Romantic showpiece. From the opening octaves of his entrance, Ohlsson plays with smooth, melodic connectedness, and his singing tone carries the work's long lines effectively, if somewhat introspectively. Yet Ohlsson also displays an incisive attack in the more aggressive sections that provides a welcome contrast to the nearly private lyricism and shows off his considerable physical prowess. Ohlsson has never recorded the "Piano Concerto No. 3," but this performance gave him a chance to approach the music without preconceptions and an opportunity to work with Robert Spano and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in an appealingly spontaneous and insightful manner. Spano and the ASO also perform Rachmaninov's final work, the "Symphonic Dances," a piece the orchestra knows intimately from many performances. The two works make a balanced program of Rachmaninov's music at its finest, and the performances are captured with clear Direct Stream Digital sound and a warm ambience.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
While the 3rd Piano Concerto, with its big tunes and over-the-top virtuosity, is the more popular work on this new disc from the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's own label, the greater work is the op. 45 Symphonic Dances. It requires as much virtuosity from the orchestra as the Concerto needs from the pianist. That's a tall order, but Robert Spano has his musicians hitting on all cylinders, with a tightly-disciplined and well-prepared reading of this important 20th century score. Spano's version is perhaps a bit more careful than other famous recordings, or white-hot live performances, fondly remembered, by favourite conductors. But I think it makes an excellent case for a masterpiece by a composer who doesn't have the reputation he once did. In this case, dialing things up to '11' in the Spinal Tap manner doesn't necessarily provide any gains. A well-balanced recording gives us a clear feel for the back-bone of the work as well as its surface sheen. Even better, the Atlanta engineers have attained the perfect balance between piano and orchestra, allowing both the delicacy and the power of Garrick Ohlsson's playing to come through in the 3rd Piano Concerto. This disc is a triumph of virtuosity, musicality, and technology. Kudos to Ohlsson and Spano, and the musical & technical team in Atlanta!