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I recently received a gift certificate from Tower Records and think I'm going to use it to expand my Rachmaninov collection (which is very narrow right now).

I'm wondering if anyone who is really into music would be willing to recommend CD titles that would appeal to my Ayn Rand connection interest.... There are apparently so many titles out there that I have no idea where to begin -- a search on Rachmaninov brings up 1067 results!

I am not a classical music collector, but I understand that those who are have strong opinions about which labels / collections are best. Any suggestions would be appreciated - Thanks.

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I have Rachmaninov: The Piano Concertos, it is a 6 CD collection of a lot of Rachmaninov's works (obviously including his four piano concertos). I enjoy it quite a bit, but I'll admit that I'm a classical music layman like yourself.

There was a little bit about Rachmaninov in yesterday's TIA Daily. Here are the some of the links that they provided. Maybe they can give you a little insight.

Interview from 1927

Musical Recommendations

www.rachmaninoff.co.uk

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One of my favorites that seems to get less attention is Rachmaninoff's Vespers. However, most of the recordings out there disappoint me. The one I own, which is the best I've found on CD, is from the Washington Choral Arts Society. It might be harder to find. (My favorite recording is only on record, so far as I know, and is an old one by the USSR chorus, I believe.)

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http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detai...ssical&n=507846

...wow, that's a long link. Anyway, it's Rachmaninnov's symphonies 1-3, plus several other orchestral works: Vocalise, Aleko, Isle of the Dead, Symphonic Dances. On EMI Classics label, with the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Andre Previn. I really like Rachmaninov's symphonic works (excluding, a little bit, the First Symphony), and this is the best CD I've seen to get them all in one place. Not very expensive either.

Another good one, for Rach's piano works, is:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detai...nce&s=classical

Rachmaninov Complete Works for Piano and Orchestra (Vox Box CDs, ESX Entertainment, Inc.). This has all 4 piano concertos (concerti?), and Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. A lot of similar collection leave out the 4th piano concerto, which is a shame. It's a very nice work; interesting, with a jazzy touch, almost Gerswin-y in places.

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All suggestions posted thus far are excellent recommendations. It is encouraging to see such keen awareness of Rach's music.

I would like to add that I have the Complete Symphonies (1-3) of Rach performed by the St. Louis Symphony Orch under Leonard Slatkin.Rach 1-3 conducted by Slatkin @ TowerRecords.com

It sounds fantastic. & even though Rach's 1st sym is a bit weaker than his later, more mature work this performance of it really brings out it's strong points.

A warning about the piano works: be careful! The movie "Shine" had Rach's music in great prominence. Consequently, I was curious enough to buy the disc with David Helfgott playing the Rach pieces featured. It was mediocre at best. & his performance of the C# minor Prelude was very disappointing (sloppy, yikes!).

No collection of Rach's music would be complete without his glorious Preludes but please be careful about which one you buy. Unfortunately, some of the best performances are the worst recordings (old technology).

The "Vespers" is a beautiful work but, strangely, many recordings I've heard do sound kind of....unpassionate, at least to me. Which is strange because the work as written just drips with the potential for a passionate, Romantic, lyrical performance.

There is also an interesting set of CDs here Rach's works "Window in Time"

The bottom of that page describes the whole concept. Briefly, Rach recorded piano rolls for a player piano, they were transfered to a program that was then used to reproduce them on an electronic reproducing piano. It's sounds much better than you might imagine. & in a way it is actually him performing. Very nifty idea.

Finally, perhaps just as a curiosity, years ago I bought a CD of Rach himself actually performing some of his own works & other classical pieces. It is fascinating & wonderful, but the recording quality is terrible. Obviously transferred from a very old recording techonolgy medium. But it is a wonderful historical object. I will find out if it is available; don't know right now.

Happy listening.

Christopher Schlegel

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I have about 50 CDs covering pretty much all of Rachmaninoff's works. Many of my CDs seem to be out of print now, however. As I'm searching for choices, I'm stunned at how poorly Rachmaninoff is represented on Amazon compared to 5 years ago.

My suggestion is to first buy the 3 Vox sets of Orchestral Music.

"Complete Symphonies"

http://www.towerrecords.com/product.aspx?pfid=1075956

"Orchestral Music"

http://www.towerrecords.com/product.aspx?pfid=1177563

"Complete Works for Piano & Orchestra"

http://www.towerrecords.com/product.aspx?pfid=1072940

This inexpensively and effectively covers most of Rachmaninoff's symphonic compositions. Only a few of these performances include my favorite versions (I really like this version of Symphonic Dances), but I consider them all average to above average, and conductor Leonard Slatkin actually does enjoy conducting Rachmaninoff.

You can use these recordings as a starting point for determining which specific compositions are your favorites, if you want to buy alternative recordings.

Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto 2&3 are favorites, and I like Ashkenazy's performances, if you decide to explore other recordings later.

Rachmaninoff's Symphony 2 is my favorite symphony, and have many recordings of it.

To me, the most important recording of Rachmaninoff's is one of his complete Preludes. Sadly, my absolute favorite recording is out of print,

Rachmaninoff Preludes perfformed by Alexis Weissenberg.

Vladimir Ashkenasy and his 24 Preludes / Piano Sonata combination are generally respected, but quite different in interpretation.

http://www.towerrecords.com/product.aspx?pfid=1096821

Hyperion has a set of complete works for solo piano performed by Howard Shelley (though I didn't particularly like his approach to the preludes or piano sonatas).

Rachmaninov: Complete Piano Music / Howard Shelley

05/22/2002 Hyperion CDS 44041/8

http://www.towerrecords.com/product.aspx?pfid=1899671

Beyond the Preludes, I'd also definitely try the Etudes Tableau, and the Piano Sonatas 1&2

Hope this helps. I'm saddened to see that there are fewer good choices now than there were 10 years ago, as a lot of good recordings have been discontinued.

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P.S.

This set of Ashkenazy performing the works for piano & orchestra is a good package

http://www.towerrecords.com/product.aspx?pfid=2762802

This set of Ashkenazy conducting the complete symphonies plus Symphonic Dances and The Bells is also a good package:

http://www.towerrecords.com/product.aspx?pfid=1319495

I'd consider these as substitutes for the Vox packages I mentioned above, as I'd rate the quality of performances as somewhat higher. Also I noticed that the Vox packages may have availability issues.

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A couple of months ago I saw Howard Shelley perform Rach's 3rd piano concerto. I was about 5 feet from the piano, slightly left of center, with a perfect view of the keyboard. I dont' normally like sitting in the front row for orchestral performances -- all you see is the string section -- but it was fun to see the 3rd performed from an almost-performer's-eye view. (In March, it's the 2nd -- though not as close up!)

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Rachmaninoff's Symphony 2 is my favorite symphony, and have many recordings of it.

It's my favorite too!

My favorite recordings go back to the days when Rachmaninoff always premiered his works with an orchestra that understood how his compositions were meant to be played: the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski and then Eugene Ormandy. You can get a CD of Rachmaninoff himself playing his 2nd and 3rd Concertos with the Philadelphia Orchestra, prepared from the original RCA Red Seal masters. There are also modern digital recordings of mechanical reproductions of Rachmaninoff's own playing and they are pretty good. When it comes to his piano compositions, Rachmaninoff playing Rachmaninoff is the gold standard.

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I began collecting Rachmaninoff's music almost 40 years ago, and over the years have hunted down virtually every work of his: 43 of the 45 works with opus numbers (as well as several without).

OBVIOUS choices for the most beautiful music are: the 2nd Symphony, the 2nd and 3rd Piano Concertos, and the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (as others have pointed out).

But PLEASE look at these lesser-known masterpieces:

the Cello Sonata (sonata for Cello and Piano), and

the Suite No. 2 for Two Pianos.

Both were written at nearly the same period as the 2nd Concerto, and reflect a similar spirit. Both contain an absolute flood of beautiful melodies. (The Suite was recommended by the Objectivist lecture organization in the 1960s.)

Those are my top recommendations. For those who know all the more familiar works, I would also recommed:

the early symphonic poem "Prince Rostislav", and

the unfinished opera "Monna Vanna."

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I began collecting Rachmaninoff's music almost 40 years ago, and over the years have hunted down virtually every work of his:  43 of the 45 works with opus numbers (as well as several without).

Perhaps you can help me with something, Bill. Years ago I heard a recording of Rachmaninoff's 3rd Piano Concerto that used an alternative cadenza -- I believe it is called ossia -- in the first movement. I had heard many recordings of The Third and never knew that Rachmaninoff wrote two cadenzas for the first movement.

The ossia cadenza is stunning, powerful beyond my ability to describe. I later read that Rachmaninoff did not like to use it because he felt that, in effect, it made the concerto climax in the first movement.

I have since lost that recording and would dearly love to find another. Unfortunately, I cannot remember the soloist or the conductor. Are you aware of any modern recordings of the Third that use the ossia?

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One of my favorites that seems to get less attention is Rachmaninoff's Vespers. However, most of the recordings out there disappoint me. The one I own, which is the best I've found on CD, is from the Washington Choral Arts Society. It might be harder to find. (My favorite recording is only on record, so far as I know, and is an old one by the USSR chorus, I believe.)

I will second this reccomendation, and I am very surprised to see it here - but not surprised that it should come from Daniel. :)

Particularly, in the Vespers, is a piece called Bogorodiste Devo (That may be slightly mispelled, phonetic Russian and all). It's my personal favorite of all Rachmaninov.

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AisA, here is something on the cadenza:

http://www.classical.net/music/comp.lst/wo.../pc3.html#grp11

Here is a classification of some major Rachmaninoff 3rd Concerto recordings

http://www.geocities.com/Vienna/Strasse/86...eRach3Page.html

I like Ashkenazy/ w. Haitink, which featured the big cadenza, though I don't think there's one ideal recording. Some people love the Argerich 3rd, and I just didn't see the big deal. Othes are passionate about Horowitz, but I don't like dealing with hiss and missed notes.

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AisA, here is something on the cadenza:

http://www.classical.net/music/comp.lst/wo.../pc3.html#grp11

Here is a classification of some major Rachmaninoff 3rd Concerto recordings

http://www.geocities.com/Vienna/Strasse/86...eRach3Page.html

I like Ashkenazy/ w. Haitink, which featured the big cadenza, though I don't think there's one ideal recording. Some people love the Argerich 3rd, and I just didn't see the big deal. Othes are passionate about Horowitz, but I don't like dealing with hiss and missed notes.

Thank you, Mr. West. It seems that there are many recordings with the long cadenza. Now I know what to get.
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Wow, it'd be wonderful to actually hear the master play his own music. How hard is it to find recordings where Rachmaninoff is the one playing?

Not very hard at all.

I have Rachmaninoff playing his Second and Third Concertos with the Philadelphia Orchestra on CD and it's available from Amazon.com here where you will also find this.

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Wow, it'd be wonderful to actually hear the master play his own music.

As much as I love Rachmaninoff's music, I have never been able to fully appreciate his recordings of his own work. I always feel as if he was playing everything too fast, with not enough emphasis on what I would like. I jokingly say to myself that Rachmaninoff just does not know how to play Rachmaninoff!

Personally, I am particularly fond of any performance of Rachmaninoff's works by Emil Gilels.

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Stephen Speicher wrote:

As much as I love Rachmaninoff's music, I have never been able to fully appreciate his recordings of his own work. I always feel as if he was playing everything too fast, with not enough emphasis on what I would like. I jokingly say to myself that Rachmaninoff just does not know how to play Rachmaninoff!

I have a theory which is this: the composer becomes so familiar with his own composition, that he is apt to play it fast -- the anticipation of notes or phrases becomes de-emphasized when one has heard it (including in one's head!) a million times.

That is my theory which I have. Thank you.

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I have a theory which is this: the composer becomes so familiar with his own composition, that he is apt to play it fast -- the anticipation of notes or phrases becomes de-emphasized when one has heard it (including in one's head!) a million times.

I tend to seriously doubt this. Truly great performers internalize some music that they play -- especially their signature pieces -- and yet we do not observe extra speed or lack of emphasis in their performances from year to year.

But, we have at least one composer here on the forum -- Christopher Schlegel -- so perhaps he may care to comment.

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I can think of a few reasons Rachmaninoff played "fast". Perhaps that's how he heard it in his head, and thus intended it. Perhaps he faced a physical limit on the recording time available (common in the early days of recording - a piece had to be less than X minutes to fit on one disk). I've also read stories that Rachmaninoff disliked audiences growing restless, so for example, if he heard coughs, he would cut out parts of a piece and thus shorten his performance. That same attitude could have pressed him to play faster, though I don't think a performer of his seriousness would seriously distort the music for that reason.

I just relistened to all 10 discs of the RCA set of Rachmaninoff performances during work yesterday. I like Rachmaninoff's performances, though the sound quality prevents it from being my main listening choice. I think you have to already know the music well to allow your mind to fill in the acoustic blanks of the primitive recordings.

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Stephen Speicher wrote:

I tend to seriously doubt this. Truly great performers internalize some music that they play -- especially their signature pieces -- and yet we do not observe extra speed or lack of emphasis in their performances from year to year.

Perhaps. Just to clarify though, I did not mean to refer to "lack of emphasis" in general, but only the de-emphasis of one aspect: "anticipation", that pregnant pause that holds a moment of musical drama to the listener. Good performers internalize that pause itself, knowing its reason for existence. But as the not-only performer, but composer, I imagine it would be easy to eventually get bored of a pause and conclude that better drama resided somewhere else, say, in a faster rendition.

My voluminous evidence for this theory consisted of noticing that performers (of the pop/rock/jazz variety) very frequently perform faster in concert than their studio versions. Also the fact that I play my own stuff faster over time, unless I'm self-consciously keeping the "proper" pace.

Another, equally rigorous :D theory: perhaps Rach's renditions are the "correct" speed, and almost all other versions are slower, because his stuff is just so darned hard to play.

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I can think of a few reasons Rachmaninoff played "fast". Perhaps that's how he heard it in his head, and thus intended it. Perhaps he faced a physical limit on the recording time available (common in the early days of recording - a piece had to be less than X minutes to fit on one disk). I've also read stories that Rachmaninoff disliked audiences growing restless, so for example, if he heard coughs, he would cut out parts of a piece and thus shorten his performance. That same attitude could have pressed him to play faster, though I don't think a performer of his seriousness would seriously distort the music for that reason.

I could be wrong, but I have always thought that Rachmaninoff played some of his own pieces faster than I would like, and placed emphasis different from what I enjoy, as an expression of his own artistic choice. He was, afterall, not only a great composer but he was also considered to be a virtuoso performer, and I simply cannot imagine him playing faster in order to fit something on a recording. Besides, this "speedup" occurs on the Ampico piano rolls which, as far as I know, would not have any such limitation. Ah! Now here is a thought. Perhaps the transcribing process from the Ampico piano rolls affects various dynamics. That is worth looking into, when I have some time.

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Perhaps. Just to clarify though, I did not mean to refer to "lack of emphasis" in general ...

I must apologize. I have no idea why I wrote "lack of emphasis" rather than "not enough emphasis on what I would like," the latter being what I wrote in my original post. The two statements are entirely different, and "lack of emphasis" is certainly not what I really meant.

My voluminous evidence for this theory consisted of noticing that performers (of the pop/rock/jazz variety) very frequently perform faster in concert than their studio versions.

I cannot say I have noticed anything like that, but perhaps you go to these concerts much more often than do I. If what you say is a correct observation, then that is interesting evidence.

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