Is this the deadliest ever performance of Rachmaninov’s 2nd concerto?

Is this the deadliest ever performance of Rachmaninov’s 2nd concerto?


norman lebrecht

December 04, 2013

Listen. Just listen. Don’t keep checking your pulse. You are still alive. Just about.

Here’s Deadhand Dude. Guess who?

rachmaninov hands

h/t: Tristan Jakob-Hoff


  • Lázaro Azar says:


  • markspalding says:

    I’ve got no problem with this, quite interesting actually. Messiaen used to play Bach organ chorales at less than half the “normal” pace. Grainger believed real mediocrity was evidenced by a middling tempo.

  • anon says:

    Sounds like Pogorelich to me: super slow, bringing out of middle voices, unusual accents, etc. And this is probably too extreme for most people, but I’d rather listen to this than another one of the over-marketed kid “stars” mechcanically go through the motions. Pogo at least makes me hear the piece in a new way, maybe I don’t agree with it, but it’s not boring.

  • Ivo Pogorelich, circa 1999.

  • Javor Bracic says:


  • Sounds like Pogorelich in the last 10 years… The comments about it are yours, but the pianist may be him…

    • Ignacio Martínez-Ybor says:

      The suggestion intrigued me as it has been years since I heard the Rachmaninov recordings, so I went and checked 1924 and 1929 (both Stokowski) and NO, it’s not him. It could be Pogo (remember his Brahms?). But it could also be somebody unexpected like, say, Weissenberg.

      • Steve says:

        Interesting that you put forward Weissenberg as a possibility.

        His recording of the 2nd Concerto (with Karajan) wasn’t all that widely liked, but Glenn Gould wrote positively about it I seem to remember.

        In some ways It’s diametrically opposed to the Pogorelich version as the soloist feels very integrated within the Orchestra. More like chamber-music.

  • harold braun says:


  • Daniel Farber says:

    More perverse and self-aggrandizing even than Gould’s Brahms D Minor (with Bernstein). A lot of the fun and meaning of this piece have to with its physicality, its “gymnasticness” (including the subtle one of achieving the long lines), and that aspect is entirely missing here. Celi’s late work in Munich (and Klemperer’s with the New Philharmonia) was extremely slow as well, but one always had the sense that they really FELT the music in this glacial sort of way: different as they were from each other, their performances were NOT, as this was IS at every turn, “mannered”.

  • Larry Katz says:

    Someone should have put him out of his misery.

  • Brian says:

    Schrecklichkeit! More proof that having recorded documentation of composers actually playing or conducting their own works has not a whit of influence on most later interpreters. Each goes his own merry, self-aggrandizing way. I’d never be so naïve as to expect an executant to copy or imitate anyone else, even the composer, who may himself differ on different occasions, but had this pianist taken Rach’s own recording into account on some level, or even his instruction Moderato minim=66 he would never have committed this tedious, leaden, maddening monstrosity.

  • I rather liked it. The opening solo is so familiar; it’s nice to hear a new idea in it, indicative of some pianistic intelligence. The passage around 8:30 is too punchy, maybe. In general it’s a performance addressed to those who might be inclined to find the whole work a bit of a cliche now.

  • Ron says:

    Someone channeling Glenn Gould!

  • When I studied the last Beethoven sonata, Op. 111 in C minor, with Walter Hautzig, he passed on a comment by Artur Schnabel about the second movement which Hautzig had studied with him. A lot of people (including myself at the time) fall into the trap of playing it too slowly, especially the theme. Schnabel used to say: “Play it slowly, but only as slowly as you can imbue it with content” (in German: “…innerlich ausfüllen…” which is very hard to translate into English). I think this didn’t happen here… That being said, tempi which are too fast are just as bad as tempi which are too slow. “Just right” is a tempo that enables one to feel the musical content and not necessarily one which is right according to some metronome marking, even if it is that of the composer.

  • David J Gill says:

    Love it! I’m all for high risk interpretations, especially the of old war horses of the repertoire.

  • Chas Reskin says:

    I can buy some of it, but at several points it seemed so over-the-line “espressivo” and rubato that it feels more like an ego trip for novelty’s sake. I love clarity if the musical values are not compromised in the process.

  • Michael says:

    Gavrilov ?

  • Daniel Bykhovsky says:

    Joyce Hato?

    No, I agree with the others who noted that it’s Ivo Pogorelich. This recording has been floating around the internet for a while. I believe the conductor is Peter Ruzicka, not sure about the orchestra, though.

    It’s idiosyncratic, indulgent, and not 100% faithful to tempo and tradition of how this piece is played. However, it’s highly artistic and moving, which for me, justifies it’s existence.

  • The negative opinions here are a little prissy. Pogorelich is a deep thinker, knows how to manipulate the keyboard to the most infinitesimal degree–and makes music. It is not “horrible”. It is not urtext, either. But the playing is deeply thought out, provocative, and individual. I think there is room for this. Too many clock-watching jerks fail to see that Pogorelich is dressing down the Romantic concerto image–and attempting to integrate the piano into the orchestral texture; or then breaking away from this integration. I find it enormously compelling. And what tone! Rich, full, deep–and still incandescent.

  • Paul says:

    Pogorelich gave two Chopin nocturnes and Chopin’s B minor sonata this kind of treatment circa 2005. It was fascinating, if ultimately maddening. In the second half of the recital he was to play Rachmaninov’s B-flat minor sonata, but I couldn’t take any more.

    Has anyone heard Pogorelich play recently? Is anyone recording him (commercially)?

  • Barbara Chasson says:

    REAL MUSICAL interpretation!!! Not just trying to be faster than anyone else, but true musical feeling! Wish I could have played with whoever the pianist is! Let us in on the secret, pse, Norman and/or Tristan… awaiting your response(s).

  • Herbert Pauls says:

    Pogorelich in Berlin in 2007 with the DSO. This particular performance has been circulating on the web for a few years and the whole thing clocks in at an unbelievable 48 minutes. Outside of some of Gould’s stranger efforts perhaps, I have rarely heard anything so bizarre in my life (except maybe Pogorelich’s version of Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Sonata). But it does grow on one, and the pianism of course is stupendous and often extraordinarily moving.

  • albert schweitzer says:

    Absolutely nothing wrong with this interpretation. It is just that: an interpretation. And for those of us who listen to dozens if not hundreds of performances of the great masterpieces like this one, risk and innovation are welcome. If this is how this pianist feels about this piece, that’s fine with me and should be to you self-imagined police of interpretation. Vive la difference!

  • Peter says:

    Never heard the 2nd subject sound like that! It’s is SO different (but actually quite acceptable).

  • I found some passages rather revelatory, others mannered. It was interesting to hear some more of Rachmaninoff’s intricate inner voicings, often glossed over in the global mix of other recordings. That said, I don’t think I’d want to listen to this version more than once.

  • John Riley says:

    Pogorelich did the same sort of thing at the RFH around 2000-2002? I think the conductor was Lazarev, who showed great forbearance. The second half was DDS 5, which the audience cheered to the rafters. I didn’t go but a friend did and he told me that at bar four a violist leaned forward and whispered: “F, C, E flat, A flat..”

    A while later he was booked to return but pulled out. When I rang to buy a ticket I was solemnly informed of this fact. “Yes,” I said, brightly, “that’s why I’m booking a ticket!”