As we approach the holidays, Pacific Symphony’s planned December concert for the Hal and Jeanette Segerstrom Classical Series would have featured Rachmaninoff’s beloved Piano Concerto No. 2 with guest pianist Andrey Gugnin, a brilliant pianist and recording artist, and guest conductor Markus Stenz. This is a work our musicians love and perform with extraordinary commitment. Hopefully, we will hear it live in the not-too-distant future.
As some little compensation, I thought you might enjoy sampling the interpretive range that different pianists and conductors have brought to this work. You must suspend some judgment because of the varying audio quality of these different eras, studio vs. live recording and so on.
For your listening pleasure, here is an artistic survey listed in chronological order.
Let’s start with Sergei Rachmaninoff himself performing his own work from 1929 (so fortunate to have this historic recording). Note the tempo and lack of sentimentality? The work was nearly three decades old at this point.
Van Cliburn (1958): During the height of the Cold War, the 23-year-old pianist from Shreveport, Louisiana captivated Soviet audiences in Moscow.
Sviatoslav Richter (1959): This is considered one of the great recordings of the work.
André Watts (1988): Who could forget his performance with us a few years ago? An OC favorite.
Helene Grimaud (2008) The renowned French pianist brings her extraordinary virtuosity to the work. (Note the concert hall was a tour stop for Pacific Symphony in 2006: Lucerne)
Evgeny Kissin (2014) One of today’s most celebrated artists, this brilliant virtuoso is considered a leading Russian pianist of our time.
Enjoy and let me know your thoughts! What were your favorites and why? Please leave a reply below.
—John Forsyte, Pacific Symphony President & CEO