Recordings of these concertos begin with the composer himself and continue with Vladimir Horowitz, whom Rachmaninov acknowledged as the superior interpreter. The benchmark in modern times was set by Vladimir Ashkenazy with Andre Previn on Decca, an act of concentration and mutual challenge that few others could sustain across the series.
My feeling is that Daniil Trifonov and Yannick Nézet-Séguin have set the benchmark for the next quarter-century. Outstanding in their previous release of the 2nd and 4th concertos, they deliver a performance of the first concerto that makes light of its difficulties and hesitations, lightening also its endemic morbidity with little touches of finger-wit and some gorgeous phrases from the Philadelphia winds. If I am marginally less overwhelmed by the 3rd concerto it is only because the first sets the bar so high and the competition – Argerich, Gilels, Richter, Hough – is so ferocious. Trifonov holds his own against the highest, lacking only the definitive act of possession. Perhaps he makes too light of the work’s flickering moods, perhaps the conductor is a tad prosaic. One is so used to being convinced by Trifonov that it is reassuring to find him mortal. Ten years from now, he will read the work quite differently.
Sign on to the blogfeed: www.slippedisc.com
Visit the website: www.normanlebrecht.com
Read my new book,Genius and Anxiety