The appeal of this release hinges more on its sound quality than on the quality of its well-known and excellent performances. Unfortunately, it doesn't sound very good. One can more or less hear Richter – details of articulation occasionally get lost, inner voices are sometimes obscured, and bigger sonorities are often opaque – but he sounds like he's miles away. One can hear Sanderling and the USSR Radio & Television Symphony Orchestra only faintly when they're quiet, somewhat better when they're louder, and all too well when they're really loud. There have been better releases of these recordings in the past – many listeners prefer the 1995 BMG-Melodiya issues – and there will likely be better releases in the future. This one's not worth it except for Richter specialists who have to have every release of every performance Richter ever recorded.
Glenn Gould was this century's greatest Bach player, so these legendary recordings are self-recommending. While other fine pianists have made powerful statements in this music, no one sounds anything like Gould. His phenomenal clarity of articulation, digital control, and well, just plain interesting way with the music set him completely apart from the competition. With playing of this individuality and quality, it's pointless to engage in any debate with respect to the appropriateness of the piano versus the harpsichord. Scholars and pedants may continue to argue, but the fact is, it doesn't matter. Great musicianship always serves great music best.-David Hurwitz
Garrick Ohlsson is much better known for his elegant recordings of the piano music of Frédéric Chopin than he is for his forays into Russian music, but this 2011 release of Sergey Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor shows that he brings the same kind of polish and depth of expression to this monumental post-Romantic showpiece. From the opening octaves of his entrance, Ohlsson plays with smooth, melodic connectedness, and his singing tone carries the work's long lines effectively, if somewhat introspectively.
The Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 3 is rarely heard, though it is a finely crafted work worth greater attention. It has suffered alongside the magnificent and superior Second and the ever-popular First. Moreover, it is not a bona fide concerto at all, the composer having completed only the first movement before his sudden death in 1893. Contrary to the suggestion of a few, it is highly unlikely he intended to produce a one-movement concerto. Tchaikovsky wrote two other piano pieces the same year bearing the titles "Andante" and "Finale," respectively. Following his death, Taneyev orchestrated these and attached them to the Concerto, though Tchaikovsky had left no indication they were to be a part of it. But the pair did share something in common with the completed first movement: a theme source – the incomplete Symphony No. 7. In any event, the opening movement of this Concerto is the most compelling, featuring an exuberant main theme whose first two notes are the central melodic element. An attractive slow melody is soon presented, followed by a theme of great vivacity and rhythmic drive.
Here's a collection of Bach pieces where the performances fit together exceptionally well. The basic sound is that of Canada's veteran Baroque ensemble Tafelmusik under violinist and director Jeanne Lamon: smooth, bright, French in its light seductiveness. Sample the almost accentless Rondeau from the Suite in A minor, a violin-and-strings transcription (and according to musicologist Joshua Rifkin a reconstruction of an original version) of the Suite in B minor for orchestra, BWV 1067; you couldn't call it gutsy, but the degree of control and consistency is impressive.
For those new to Mendelssohn's music, this might look like a recording of some major works of the composer; be aware that they're virtually unknown music of Mendelssohn's early teens, first published in complete form only in 1999. For those already a fan of Mendelssohn, however, they're very intriguing works that show the developing talents of the young composer in a different light than do the set of twelve-string symphonies that are his most frequently performed works of the period.