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Ravel: Piano Concerto; Rachmaninoff / Michelangeli, Et Al

Release Date: 08/28/2015 
Label:  Emi Classics   Catalog #: 551688   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Sergei RachmaninovMaurice Ravel
Performer:  Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli
Conductor:  Ettore Gracis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

To prove the contention that there’s value in scarcity, I offer this disc as Exhibit One. Michelangeli made very few records, but all of them, even the weird ones like his Beethoven concertos, are special in some way. More to the point, we are still listening to them and this one, recorded in 1958, has served as the reference version of both works since the day it was issued. Its luster hasn’t dimmed a bit over half a century on, a billion later recordings (many excellent) of each work notwithstanding.

Start with the Rachmaninov. When Michelangeli recorded it the piece was barely known, certainly not part of the standard repertoire. In fact, it still isn’t. In this performance, the
Read more scintillating outer movements enfold a central Largo in which Michelangeli’s pointed phrasing and subtlety of touch give the music a degree of depth that belies its brevity and thematic concision. If the concerto didn’t become as popular as it deserves to be after the release of this recording, it was only because Michelangeli set the bar so high that the interpretation was deemed to be better than the work itself.

As for the Ravel, the breathtaking precision and level of imaginative detail that Michelangeli brings to the solo part remains a cause for celebration, especially in the Adagio assai, but just as noteworthy are Ettore Gracis’ accompaniments. Seldom will you hear such close and unanimous collaboration between solo and orchestra. Consider the touches of color behind the piano’s motoric passagework in the first movement development section, one of the many moments that makes this performance special.

This is simply marvelous, and it is those beautifully judged balances that capture the interplay between the soloist and ensemble that earn the engineering the highest rating alongside the interpretations.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com


Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli's classic recordings of the Ravel G major and Rachmaninov G minor concertos have never been out of the catalog since they first appeared more than 40 years ago. Surface and style are one in this music, and the Italian pianist remains unsurpassed for his icy precision and micro-detailing. He brings pinpointed élan to Rachmaninov's sizzling cross-rhythms in the Fourth Concerto's Allegro Vivace movement, as well as laser-like concentration to the tartly lush Largo. Few have matched Michelangeli's nuance and color in the Ravel concerto, and his seamless dispatch of Ravel's "singing sword" effect in the opening movement belies the notion that you can't bend notes on a piano. One could be nitpicky in regard to Michelangeli's "old-fashioned" breaking of hands in the slow movement, but the music's rippling aura can easily absorb such quirks. Ettore Gracis puts the Philharmonia Orchestra through its paces, and the players respond with scintillating brilliance. EMI's new transfer reveals less tape hiss than heard in both the 1988 CD release and Philips' "Great Pianists" edition of the Ravel, yet boasts more body, definition, and presence. If you missed these performances in EMI's aforementioned full-price incarnation, don't delay acquiring these better transfers at midprice. No classical collection should be without them.

--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com

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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Piano no 4 in G minor, Op. 40 by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (Piano)
Conductor:  Ettore Gracis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1926/1941; USA 
Date of Recording: 1957 
Venue:  No.1 Studio, Abbey R 
Concerto for Piano in G major by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (Piano)
Conductor:  Ettore Gracis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1929-1931; France 
Date of Recording: 1957 
Venue:  No.1 Studio, Abbey R 

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