Tuesday, July 27, 2010

David Helfgott - plays Rachmaninov

 

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One of the more controversial figures in classical music would have to be David Helfgott (1947), an Australian pianist who is just as famous for his schizophrenia as for his performances.

After having read the many negative reviews of this CD it was time to really get into this recording. First off, everyone seems to review the movie ( Shine ) and to reveal their personal prejudices against those with a mental illness. This consumes their entire review and we never learn if this is a good performance or a bad one divorced from these sentiments. From the viewpoint of someone in the audience, the Rachmaninoff Third Concerto comes off very well. The orchestra under Milan Horvot is a first rate ensemble and Horvat is a more than capable accompanist. The miking may be close but at least we know that there actually IS an orchestra there unlike many recordings of this piece. Secondly, if seen as a whole, Helgott turns in an interesting performance that is at time softer and lighter than we are used hearing. The bluff and bluster of many with no feeling for this work (one pianist did this work 4 times on records and never came to a cohesive ideal) is totally absent here. Any obsessiveness with detail doesn't exist in this performance. What we do hear is a pianist who has something to say about this work--it may not be according to the rigid standards of many but it is a valid statement. This may never be a recording to top anybody's list. However the Third Concerto as played here is given a great, sturdy rendition worthy of respect. The three preludes by Rachmaninoff Rachmaninoff are performed as perfectly shaped little pearls. The Second Piano Sonata is like the Third Piano Concerto--there have been too few recordings that actually great due to its thorny score even when played with cuts. Of special merit is the second movement which Helfgott plays with gentleness. The third movement doesn't seem to come off--again, too few pianists can make it through this work. However, the attempt here is balanced and right as rain. Again, this may not stand with the immortal performances. However, everyone is entitled to an opinion. And this performance by Helfgott will stand the test of time.--Amazon

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Is it “the most awful commercial recording of the Rachmaninoff Third ever released”!?

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