SERGEI RACHMANINOFF - Complete RCA Recordings
This welcome set is a prime example of how a record company can show almost total disrespect for a magnificent artist. Rachmaninoff, one of the titans of the piano world of the 20th Century, had the misfortune to be associated with Victor. Early he made a few recordings for Edison, and these are included in this set. He made many acoustic recordings for Victor and later electric ones, with a marked improvement on the sound. Howe er, the engineers never did seem to know how to record him. Audio was muddled and blurred with limited dynamic range, even in the electric recordings. Charles O'Connell who was head of Victor's classical division had many problems with major artists including Arturo Toscanini. It was O'Connell who decided that a suggested recording of Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances (in the version for two pianos) played by Rachmaninoff and Vladimir Horowitz, would not sell, and the sessions never took place - what a loss to the music world! And O'Connell's interference in recording Concerto No. 3 is well documented. The concertos actually have the best sound,/ This set also includes the acoustic recording of Concerto No. 2 made in 1924. Surprisingly, this is one of the better-sounding recordings in the set, but the same recoding has been issued on Pristine Classical in a miraculous restoration infinitely superior to what is heard on this RCA set (REVIEW). Of course these recordings are valuable as they give us a glimpse of the artistry of the mighty pianist but the poor sound of the originals has not been improved by digital remastering. A plus is that this set includes Rachmanuinoff's three recordings as conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra: Vocalise, The Isle of the Dead and Symphony No. 3. He was a respected conductor and once was offered the position of leader of this famnerd orchestra which he declined to contiunue his concert career. This set sells for about a third the cosgt of an earlier RCA set. Track information on disk 8 is incorrect: it lists only the first of the three movements of the acoustic Concerto No. 2. This listing is correct in the small pamphlet that accompanies the set. Get this set, with reservations, and lament that Victor/RCA did such a deplorable job in so many ways.
R.E.B. (December 2016)