Hello, All

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Daniel
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Re: Hello, All

Postby Daniel » Thu Oct 30, 2008 8:54 am

1. I've read Ashkenazy's interview even before hearing the original 4th. After that, I have to say I partly agree - this leads me to the next point:
2. I'm 101% convinced that every note of Rachmaninoff's late compositions is put there on purpose. Yes, we don't feel "at large" listening to the 4th, as it happened for instance with the 3rd etc - but this was his way of expressing his feelings. He wrote what he felt, and things had changed radically for him during the previous years. Anyone having a little bit of musical knowledge (OK, a little bit more...), getting over the ALLEDGED "dryness" of the thematic material, will appreciate the structure of the 4th. I can't see how anyone might prove with real evidence that the original 4th would be technically, structurally and logically under the 3rd (which, of course, still remains the greatest piano concerto ever for me, but that's another issue).
At the Member's Weekend this year, speaking about the Paganini Rhapsody, Ian Flint made me feel I was not alone in my thinking that the 18th variation is put there with a very specific purpose: the snob public complained about his new compositions not being Rachmaninoff-like. Ok, so this is what you want to hear? Well, take this one then! It's the perfect proof that the old Rachmaninoff style did not die inside him - it just didn't logically fit any more in the context of that time. So here we come back at what I've written above: he just wrote what he felt, not what others would have liked to hear from him.
3. As for the first Concerto, the 1917 revision obviously turned it into a completely different and way better work. But we also must bear in mind that the original 1st was a homework and that the students were asked to write a Grieg-like concerto. So, considering this, I recon he fulfilled this requirement beyond any doubt...
4. I'm still longing to hear the 4th live...
Last edited by Daniel on Thu Oct 30, 2008 7:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

StewH
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Re: Hello, All

Postby StewH » Thu Oct 30, 2008 5:47 pm

Is it me, or is that a big orchestra in this recording of the original 4th concerto?

And, yea, I would stand in line for tickets to a live performance of the 4th... :D
StewH

Daniel
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Re: Hello, All

Postby Daniel » Thu Oct 30, 2008 8:04 pm

I suppose you've heard the Symphonies recordings with Ashkenazy. In every Rachmaninoff work he recorded he obviously used a LAAARGE orchestra... and God bless him, it sounds great!
Just for the record, check the orchestra Mehta and Horowitz used for the 3rd Concerto in 1978 (am I right about the year?...). Just one example there: 9 double basses.

PS: I've edited my previous post. There was a copy - paste trouble in the original one. I'm used to writing somewhere else and then pasting into the forum. It happened to me to write for half an hour and then lose everything because the forum software had logged me out by itself.

DanNYC
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Re: Hello, All

Postby DanNYC » Wed Mar 11, 2009 3:08 am

StewH wrote:My recording of the original 1st and 4th concertos arrived today, and after listening to the 4th twice in a row!, I must say I'm delighted both by the composition itself and the playing by Mr. Ghindin. The last movement alone is worth the purchase price. This is a must have recording for Rachmaninoff aficiandos. As for the 1st, it gives another look at early SVR's large-scale compositional style, much as does the 1st Symphony. But I think I like the revised version better.


This is rather a late reply to a post - I'm a bit new here - but I did want to put my two kopeks in, for whatever it's worth. I should start by saying that I've always had a soft spot for this piece since I first got to know it in my early teens when I was discovering all of the concertos. As for the versions, I have to say I like the final version best - it's better balanced and what I particularly like about it is that he took a lot of phrases that are repeated verbatim in the first version and developed them more interestingly in the final version.

Still, a lot of the material left out of the first version is quite wonderful and the original is a one-of-a-kind over the top sort of piece. One thing, however, that hasn't been mentioned (maybe I didn't notice) is that there are actually three versions of the 4th Concerto, not two, and it's possible to hear all three versions on recording.

The one that Ghindin plays is the original - the one that was played at the premier in 1927 along with the premiere of the Three Russian Songs was not the version that he originally published in 1928. By 1928 he had excised a large chunk of music from it and had performed it again in another round of concerts. This version, which was the only early version available on recording until they published the original a few years ago was recorded by a pianist named William Black on Chandos in 1991.

This version is really curious because while the cuts aren't as extensive as the 1941 version, it sounds more "cut." That is, the cuts are more abrupt. In the last version what is left is more coherent because complete detours have been taken out, not just parts of detours.

All that being said, I think it is a piece that was most likely fated to seem to be unsatisfactory to most people who listened to it. Not only in its original form is it the most formally complex (you really have to pay attention to follow its twists and turns and the musical material is a lot subtler than the other three) but also stylistically it's at a very odd point in Rachmaninoff's development. By the time it was written, much music had become so chromatic that it no longer could contain any tonal structure - like Scriabin, Schoenberg, and Strauss. Schoenberg crossed over that line, Scriabin died at the brink, and Strauss turned back permanently. Rachmaninoff was kind of stuck and while the chromaticism and sense of continuing development kept getting more overheated, there was no point where something gave. Like a back yard garden that never gets pruned and tended and turns into a jungle.

The heart of his music was that chromaticisim that turned Tchaikovskian style into something his own, and with the 4th concerto he had pushed it past the point where it was kind of overripe and going into a stylistic no-man's land. If one really is cognizant of the ways the harmonies keep unfolding one can almost get sea sick. This is why as much as any other reason I think he stopped composing. THere was really no where else for him to go and still be Rachmaninoff. At least at that point. And audiences had pretty much moved on as well. The post-WWI world was the world of NeoClassical Stravinsky, Weill, Hindemith. Music that was cut to the bone. Thin textures, classical forms, chromatically inflected harmonies that didn't go overboard, clear melodies.

By the time he started composing (or recomposing this piece and then continuing on in the 30s he was a different composer. Neo-classicism was really in the air and when he started setting about to work on new material that had its chromticisim pruned back in the context of a more classical-like structure but it also had its musical texture radically reduced. The Rhapsody looks like a children's piece compared to the 3rd and 4th concertos. And, while in the 4th concerto you hardly know which direction you are going sometime - especially in the original version, in the Rhapsody, 3rd Symphony and Symphonic Dances, the forms are simpler and you have a sense of where you are all the time. Melodies are clearly shaped and he had found a way to renew his music.

I can't imagine the Rachmaninoff of the 30s having any idea what to do with a piece that was created by the 1917 Rachmaninoff who had pushed this very late, late Romanticism further than it could be expected to go. This wasn't much different than 1940s Stravinsky trimming all the tinsel off of the 1911 Firebird or Petrouchka.

I apologize for going on so long - it was only intented as just a few thoughts.

Dan

StewH
Posts: 94
Joined: Thu Sep 25, 2008 9:42 pm

Re: Hello, All

Postby StewH » Wed Mar 11, 2009 5:23 pm

Dan--

Wow! That's a lot to digest, but your comments are full of insight that is missing from any of the analyses I've read of the 4th concerto. And you're correct, the "second" version is one I don't believe I've heard of. Interesting.

I agree that the final version is more concise and tightly organized than the original, a compositional approach clearly at work in the Rhapsodie, Symp. No. 3, and the Symphonic Dances. Having said that, however, it's a shame SVR found it necessary to cut out that clarinet solo half way through the final movement. The first time I listened to the original version, it blew me away!

Max Harrison, by the way, is of the opinion that the original version should be the definitive version performed or recorded nowadays. One could argue the pros and cons of that opinion, I guess, until the cows come home...
StewH

Daniel
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Re: Hello, All

Postby Daniel » Mon Mar 23, 2009 11:07 pm

DanNYC, thank you for your thoughts!
Music is beyond logic in many ways. Logic tells me the latter 4th is better balanced. All my other senses tell me the original 4th is more sincere, and that's why I appreciate this version. Moreover, the original 4th sounds to me as the music of a balanced and even happy Rachmaninoff, while the final one sound sounds like he's striving for balance. It's a natural balance at the beginning; 15 years later it turns into an artificial balance.
However we must bear in mind that, as you said, the "pregnancy" of this work was forced to a stop at mid-term and then revived in a totally different environment. The "newborn" faced the harsh reality and had to adapt. Yet Thanks God Rachmaninoff did not try to destroy the original material (as, for instance, like he thought he did with the first Symphony).
And yes, I also know the intermediate version.
By the way, does anyone around here know anything about the original First Sonata?...

RACHBOY
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Re: Hello, All

Postby RACHBOY » Tue Mar 24, 2009 3:43 pm

Thanks danNYC for your insights, keep them coming!

I always felt the version that is most recorded was cut in curious places.
I love that first version, the first time I heard it I was really dumbfounded! Also that last movement contains a little violin solo which I love.

The performance of Ghindin is ok, but I hope that more pianists and orchestra's will record and perform this wonderful work. I've told Arcadi Volodos of the presence of this version. You need an exellent pianist as well as a good conductor and orchestra to pull it off. I've heard the first version live once, unfortunately the mediocre orchestra spoiled a lot of the fun.

StewH
Posts: 94
Joined: Thu Sep 25, 2008 9:42 pm

Re: Hello, All

Postby StewH » Tue Mar 24, 2009 9:58 pm

Rachboy--Are you sure you're not referring to the clarinet solo in the last movement? :wink:
StewH

Daniel
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Joined: Thu Sep 25, 2008 11:11 pm
Location: Cluj - Napoca, Romania
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Re: Hello, All

Postby Daniel » Mon Mar 30, 2009 10:30 pm

For me that clarinet solo is a clear and direct link to the 3rd movement of the 2nd Symphony. I'm still trying to figure out the catch behind this...


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