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Sergei Rachmaninoff: The Complete Recordings Box set

4.6 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (Nov. 6 1992)
  • Number of Discs: 10
  • Format: Box set
  • Label: Sme
  • ASIN: B000003FB7
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #201,470 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Product Description

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We remember Rachmaninov today mostly for the music he wrote. But as this set quickly reveals, he was one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century, able to play his own music and a great variety of others with tremendous personality and a technique that is still astonishing. There's no point picking highlights from this set, since they are everywhere. But if you've never heard Rachmaninov play Schumann's Carnaval, try starting there for one of the most imaginative recreations of a piece of music ever recorded. The set also includes Rachmaninov's only recordings as a conductor in two of his own major works. --Leslie Gerber


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4.6 out of 5 stars
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Format: Audio CD
As a musician, I have always been a bit apprehensive as to a music critic's judgment. He's a critic, isn't he? And this is music? What gives a person the right to critique a man's legato? I'd say he has to be a teacher, but a critic merely is a gatekeeper. Even I am guilty of prejudice by the hand of a critic. Yet, hypocrisy aside, I want to comment on this set. Without saying, Rachmaninoff is not merely a rhapsodist, but a complicated composer. Not a Lisztesque flomboyant performer, but an inevitably Russian singer. That is evident in these recordings. Of course, who better to perform the concertos and preludes than Rachmaninoff himself? Yet, be aware that even if his Chopin is georgous and sensual, and his Liszt daredevilish, and his Mozart immaculate as it should be, he is still a Russian at heart. His performances are infinitely enviable, but be aware that even the Funeral March sounds like Rachmaninoff.
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Format: Audio CD
Forget the background noise, the mono sound, the tiny dynamic range. As a musician, I normally consider recorded sound an important factor in the overall experience. That Rachmaninov could convey what he does here, under the technological circumstances, is unbelievable. Anyone who has an inkling of the physical demands of any of the pieces on this generous set will be astonished, not so much by any virtuoso gestures as by the way in which the piano is simply made to melt away, leaving pure music in its wake. Every track bears witness to the effortlessness of Rachmaninov's technique; the concertos are particularly refreshing as a contrast to the post-Holywood treatment they receive today. But the moment I would single out from all 10 discs is the Handel Harmonious Blacksmith variations - this is pure pianistic witchcraft, at once subtle and generous. There have been many pianists as dazzling, some more distinctively charismatic, but none who make life seem so worth living, and music so essential.
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I still remember how excited I was when this collection first became available. Finally, I could hear a huge number of Rachmaninoff's pieces performed by the master himself, and discover his true intentions for the pieces.
Upon listening to the discs, I was both pleased and disappointed. On one hand, the performances are irreplaceable, because Rachmaninoff's own performances must be considered the fundamental reference point for interpretation of his compositions. Rachmaninoff tended to play fast and without exaggeration, almost "dry." His performances are quite different than what has come to be accepted as "standard." I like his style, but some may find it too brusque.
My disappointment comes from the sound quality of the discs. While RCA did its best with the ancient source material, the hiss and pop and general "low-fidelity" of these recordings can be distracting, and can occasionally make it difficult to hear everything that is going on. Peak orchestral volume can create distortion drowning out the piano, for example. For acoustical reasons, it would be difficult to play this music casually - if you played these discs for friends without explanation, they would wonder what's wrong with your stereo. So I listen to these discs primarily for analytical purposes - when I want to compare and contrast Rachmaninoff's performances with others'. Yes I have occasionally listened for simple pleasure, but my ears prefer newer recordings that sound more "real," even if the performance itself is not as good.
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Format: Audio CD
If you want to hear SVR play "in the flesh" (and is there any other way?), this is the collection for you. Except for Polka Italienne, which sound quality can be forgiven because of it's authenticity (I believe it was recorded at a get-together and not professionally) and the Piano Concerto No. 2 which leads off disc 8, these recordings are superb. They are a wonderful composite of Rachmaninoff's musical genious and not to be passed up.
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Format: Audio CD
My dear father introduced me to these recordings on LP back in the late 1970's. I was a very young piano student trying to tackle Schumann's Carnival at the time, and laying in bed in the dark listening to S. Rachmaninoff whisking through it like spring birds among the trees effortlessly in complete control of all harmony and melody and making me feel like I'd never ever be able to play like that. Well, many years later, much maturer, I realized I could come close. But never could anyone bring us the cultural, educational and pianistic gifts that this set allows us to enjoy. I could go on and on about the individual selections and how wonderful they are, but you all need to hear for yourselves. Everyone will have their own favorite, personally the variety is so great, the repertiore so large, there is always something for the moment. This set will always be the center and core of my collection. And believe me, that's alot to say since I delve into the remotist regions of pianistic jungles.
If any one has trouble with the sound quality, I have a suggestion. Use headphones, turn out the lights and LISTEN! There is nothing missing from these recordings except the modern listeners prejudices. It's all there, baby's, you just need to open your ears to it.
Good listening, and remember, it's all a gift.
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