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Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No 3; Rubinstein: Piano Concerto No 4 / Joseph Moog

Rachmaninov / Rubinstein / Moog / Milton
Release Date: 03/13/2012 
Label:  Onyx   Catalog #: 4089   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Sergei RachmaninovAnton Rubinstein
Performer:  Joseph Moog
Conductor:  Nicholas Milton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rheinland-Pfalz State Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

RUBINSTEIN Piano Concerto No. 4. RACHMANINOFF Piano Concerto No. 3 Joseph Moog (pn); Nicholas Milton, cond; German St P of Rhineland-Palatinate ONYX 4089 (69:49)

Joseph Moog is a young pianist with a superb technique and a warm tone. He also composes. On this album, he interestingly pairs concertos by two of Russia’s foremost pianist-composers. Anton Rubinstein’s Fourth Piano Concerto actually was in Rachmaninoff’s repertory as a soloist. Read more Drawing attention to the neglected Rubinstein concerto by following it with a more famous work is a device that certainly is welcome. The opening movement of the Rubinstein is heavily influenced by Schumann’s piano concerto, particularly its first movement. Moog here takes on the mantle of the Schumannesque lyric poet, his tonal palette featuring halftones of grays and browns. Moog’s second movement is a true andante , or walking tempo, unlike some other performances. He plays the affecting opening melody simply and directly, introducing a shadow of melancholy that he sustains beautifully throughout the movement. The concluding Allegro constitutes a showcase for Moog’s bravura playing, with exciting exchanges between the soloist and orchestra. The two evoke the finales of the Mendelssohn piano concertos, with their combination of virtuosity and sobriety. With an advocate like Joseph Moog, we may hope that the Rubinstein concerto returns to its once notable position in the concert repertoire.

I feel that Rachmaninoff’s Third Concerto, while extremely popular, is absurdly underrated as music. In it, the soloist embodies the role of the hero, as in Chopin’s concertos. As with Chopin, pianistic display demonstrates our fascination with the hero, while elucidating his character. Unlike Vladimir Horowitz, who gave us a highly demonic hero in this work, Moog’s hero is very human, even humane. His first movement exhibits quick tempos, as favored by the composer. Moog here creates a kaleidoscope of emotions, with mercurial changes in mood. The cadenza exhibits much beauty of tone. Nicholas Milton’s dark orchestral introduction to the next movement recalls the Isle of the Dead , Rachmaninoff’s previous opus—an atmosphere broken by a cascade of chaos from Moog. His scansion of the most complicated phrases is wholly convincing, even at rapid tempos. The finale starts at a speedy pace, rather than the march rhythm we are so accustomed to. Moog pays particular attention to dynamics, fleshing out the hero’s character with subtlety. He maintains tonal beauty even in rapid, soft passages, which possess a breathless excitement. Moog never pounds. The concerto’s final peroration has a sweep that might lift you out of your seat.

The superb performances are captured in audio quality that is excellent, rich, and full. For an alternate view of the Rubinstein, there’s the slower, moodier version by Larisa Shilovskaya with Alexander Anissimov. I prefer Moog’s. Classic renditions of the Rachmaninoff include Van Cliburn, Byron Janis with Charles Munch, and, if you don’t mind a cut and monaural sound, Moura Lympany. Joseph Moog strikes me as an important talent whose versions of these concertos should wear very well. The Rubinstein indeed could be a reference edition, while I would recommend the Rachmaninoff to anyone who finds performances of this work hackneyed beyond endurance. Joseph Moog seems to be a pianist’s pianist.

FANFARE: Dave Saemann
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Piano no 3 in D minor, Op. 30 by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Joseph Moog (Piano)
Conductor:  Nicholas Milton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rheinland-Pfalz State Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1909; Russia 
Concerto for Piano no 4 in D minor, Op. 70 by Anton Rubinstein
Performer:  Joseph Moog (Piano)
Conductor:  Nicholas Milton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rheinland-Pfalz State Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1864; Russia 

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