It should surprise people to hear that Ashkenazy's version with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Bernard Haitink is far superior to the over-rated recording of Andre Previn and London. The sound quality is so much richer, and much more intense, which is how Rachmaninoff NEEDS to be played.
I got my hands on the Previn/London version, and wanted to turn it off within the opening bars of the first concerto. The horns (with clarinet and bassoon) are weak and not inspiring at all. With the Haitink recording, he masterfully captures the fire that is Rachmaninoff (even for his first-ever published piece, from his early days at the Moscow Conservatory). I was captivated through the ENTIRE first concerto. I absolutely loved it. This is my favorite recording of the concerto. This is even better than the old recording of Rachmaninoff himself at the keys. Though the composer's interpretation is a touch faster than Ashkenazy's, no one can come close to playing the piece at that tempo and not sound awful. After all, this is HIS concerto we're talking about, here.
The Second Concerto is brilliant. The tempi are great throughout, and I liked Ashkenazy's interpretation, especially the opening bars. I've never heard those chords rolled that way. Usually, if the hand is not big enough to play the whole chord at once (like Rachmaninoff's recording), the low F is played as a grace note to the rest of the chord. Here, he rolls the chords. Lots of passion, a superb piano solo, and lots of beautiful, soaring melodies, which is what makes Rachmaninoff so great. This, however was not my favorite recording of the piece. I would reccommend Lang Lang's version (Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2; Paganini Rhapsody) to Ashkenazy's, though this is a close second.
The Third is probably my favorite of the Four Concerti. If done right, it can be one of the most powerful pieces of music ever composed. If done wrong, it can sound muddled and lifeless, and can seem like Rachmaninoff was just trying to crank out another success, like the Second. I think Ashkenazy did a great job with this piece, but is not my favorite recording. I would highly suggest Evgeny Kissin's recording (Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No.3, etc.). Though the tempi are slower than Ashkenazy's (and the composer's, for that matter), his interpretation is far beyond his years, as a man in his early twenties (if not younger). One recording I would advise to stay away from is Martha Argerich's live recording, the supposed "ultimate Rach 3". She tries to match the composer's tempi, and fails miserably. Her interpetation is sloppy, and lifeless, missing notes everywhere, and constantly hitting wrong keys.
The Fourth Concerto is the unknown child in the Rach Concerto family. There are only a few recordings out there of this concerto (one being the Previn/London version with Ashkenazy at the keys...again, Haitink does much better with it than Previn). This recording is, again, my favorite recording of the concerto. There is so much life to it, and the textures Rachmaninoff incorporates into the piece are really interesting (eg., the winds in the exposition; the high bassoon parts in the first movement). If more people listened to this recording, the work would probably be about as famous as the First Concerto (which still isn't very famous, but still...).
Overall, I love this recording. The First and Fourth have never sounded better than they do here, and the Second is a jewel, and high in the ranks of the best recordings of the piece. And the Third is good, but could have been better in my opinion. I highly reccommend this CD, and is worth the $34 amazon price---a great deal!