New on Youtube: Rachmaninov plays Chopin

New on Youtube: Rachmaninov plays Chopin


norman lebrecht

November 12, 2018

With added notes.

Takes your breath away.


  • Caravaggio says:

    The way Chopin ought to be played but is no longer, no matter how gifted so many pianists of the present are.

    • Petros LInardos says:

      You are making me think.

      For my taste Rachamaninov’s above performance is too affected.

      One aspect it has though that we are missing today is the lilt, the uneven triple beat. Is that what you were thinking of?

      That’s absent from many later pianists, especially in our days, including famous ones. But absent from everyone? No way.

      Here is a recording by Kristian Zimerman.

      I hear the lilt, though it’s subtle. And I rather prefer it that way.

      • Caravaggio says:


        Steal some, give some. Not knowing how, where and when to apply it, it is best left alone. Lilt is so crucial in these pieces that it is astonishing it needs to be discussed when it ought to be a given.

        • Petros Linardos says:

          Oh yes, I agree rubato is sorely missing.

          Thank you for clip – brilliant. Do you know of any other clip or link on rubato or lilt? I am trying to introduce my son to these concepts while being paifully aware of my own shortcomings.

          The rubato clip also shows some striking differences between the instruments used then and now.

          One of my most cherished musican memories was hearing in concert Horszowski at age 98 play Chopin’s nocturne Op 9,2 with a rubato to die for. This clip captures some of that:

          Rachmaninoff was indeed a master of rubato. That I find his playing in many recordings too affected is arguably my loss.

      • Caravaggio says:

        A good example here of what we are discussing

    • I totally agree that Chopin ought to be played with the same kind of spontaneity, freedom, daring, and rhythmic vitality that Rachmaninoff exhibits in his interpretations of it.

      Whether or not this is the “definitive” way Chopin ought to be played, cannot be decided because nobody can ask him (except perhaps Rosemary Brown?…)

      I also agree with the implication that modern pianists are often just too afraid of deviating from the written score when they play anything, especially Romantic music. But anyone who ever took the trouble to examine the different published versions of Chopin’s Waltzes — the G. Henle edition, for example, publishes many of these side-by-side — will readily see the enormous deviations in the printed scores of the same pieces themselves.

      Only those with a profound insight into the performance traditions of the 19th century still know in some measure how to interpret that music; and Rachmaninoff and Josef Hofmann, as others have suggested, were certainly closer to the source than modern-day artists are.

  • aj says:

    Correct way to play this ? it borders on the ridiculous .

    • M2N2K says:

      An interpretation can still be fine as long as it remains on the right side of that “border”.

    • Nobody knows the “correct” way to play Chopin any more than the correct way to play Bach, or any other composer.

      But to call Rachmaninoff’s interpretation “bordering on the ridiculous”, who was one of the pianistic and musical giants of our times, IS ridiculous (IMHO).

      • aj says:

        The observation was not based on the correct way to play Chopin or any other composer but
        that in this instance the playing of the work
        was ridiculous no matter how famous the
        player .If you look at the score and see how it
        is interpreted it is more than ridiculous .

  • Jim says:

    This makes me wonder:
    Given the years we have had now of original performance style for orchestras, is there anybody around who does ‘authentic’ performance on the piano, i.e., doing performance based on these old recordings?

    • Jim, in the 1980s, I attempted to replicate the playing style of Josef Lhevinne, my teacher’s teacher. She said, ‘Dear, they sped up the piano rolls, he didn’t play like that. And the sound was rounder and warmer.’ But I do think that the lilt within the pulse is very important, still. That, we still do. But to imitate from the past or present makes no sense. It is, however, the essence of the style we hope to maintain as tradition.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Sergei’s Chopin is humorous in parts and I’m unsure as to whether it’s meant to be that way. But, that’s the virtue of ‘interpretation’. A musician can bring or her own ideas to great music, whether we agree with these performances or not.

  • michael hurshell says:

    Love it!

  • Francis Crociata says:

    This is one of two Edison takes of Op 42 that were issued. This is the more Hofmannesque of the two, and you can easily hear and compare the two on Naxos issue of Rachmaninoff Victor and Edison acoustics, in new transfers by Ward Marston.(Those of us in the US would have to order from an British or Canadian supplier.) The other issued take might be more to the taste of commenters who found this to be too over-the-top. If you compare this take with any one of the several Hofmann live and commercial discs of Op 42, I think you’ll hear the resemblence right away. Either Rachmaninoff here is consciously imitating Hofmann (something he didn’t do on the the other take of Op 42 or on any other of his subsequent recordings), or they were both reflecting the “master” they shared in common, Anton Rubinstein, Hofmann’s teacher and whose “Historical Recitals” Rachmaninoff called his most significant pianistic influence. The commenter who asked about contemporary pianists who studied Golden Age pianists, with Bolet, De Larrocha and Cherkassky now in the company of the Golden Agers themselves, I would suggest Freire, Ohlsson, Lupu, Libetta and Pletnev, and I’m told—I haven’t heard them myself—Grosvenor and Kissen.