Music is a strange medium: sometimes you put on a CD and you immediately know: this is it! Another time it's the opposite. It becomes difficult when you are not sure, there's some doubt, an unpleasant feeling. You put away the CD and try another time. That's what happened with this CD.
Angelich is a formidable pianist with a formidable technique, the sound of the CD is formidable and yet I'm missing something. The first time, after two or three études, I felt a bit irritated and stopped listening; maybe not the right mood. So, some days later I tried again, with the sheetmusic on my lap. Again this vague irritation after some études. Why? It's all so brilliant. What do I miss?
Simply put: it's Rachmaninov. Especially in the slow pieces, for instance op.33 nr.3 or op.39 nr.2: come on, mr. Angelich, this is not Brahms or the subtle, fragile world of Debussy. Slow doesn't mean dead. Do I want my Rachmaninov with a lot of cliché Russian drama and bombast? No, but nor do I expect a composer deprived of his passion in exchange for musical correctness. It reminds me of the way Haitink accompanies Ashkenazy in Rachmaninov's piano concertos: it's all very neat and tasteful but it's not Rachmaninov. There was a time Rachmaninov was neglected as an anachronism in modern music. Happily this has changed long time ago but still there's a tendency to 'correct' Rachmaninov, for fear to be 'cheap'.
I hear that in many small details, like in bar 52 of op.39 nr.1 where Angelich plays the left hand without this grim sforzato (listen for instance to Ashkenazy) but also in the interpretation of complete pieces like op.39 nr.5: it's all very impressive and controlled but I don't feel the 'appasionato', it lacks space, vision. That's the problem with this CD: it's perfect but doesn't touch me. Maybe Ashkenazy, in the 80s, was less perfect, but, in my ears, it's still much more Rachmaninov.