Imprecise Timing Ruins It
Just playing the Ampico Rach for the first time. Even though the instrument tone and recording quality are great there are timing errors that make each chord a mini arpeggio. At first it sounds a bit arty but then just plain annoying. I think I'll be listening to the live recordings, new and old.
If you understand the subtleties of piano technique and the limitations of the primitive Ampico system, you know that there is no way these recordings can sound like it did to hear the incomparable Rachmaninoff play. At best, it is an approximation of the relative timing and durations of the notes he played. Even the modern player mechanisms found on today's Yamaha pianos and such can’t be calibrated accurately enough to satisfy an accomplished pianist. I’m sure Sergei considered the player pianos a novelty and another way to market the music. These recordings are interesting, but I would rather hear a scratchy old actual recording.
sorry to burst some bubbles, but...
…these restored piano rolls were fed through a machine that was operated by a human who decided on things like tempo, sustain, damper, inflection, etc. Though Sergei played the piano which perforated the roll paper as he played, the machine operator's interpretations are similarly subjective as a pianist interpreting the sheet music. For example; unlike the roll interpretation on this album, Sergei played his Barcarole WITHOUT sustaining pedal. I know it seems weird, but that's how he actually played it. These recordings are novelties, not accurate historical representations of the maestro's technique. Unfortunately, for that, you must settle for the poor recording quality of old recordings. I'm still hoping for digitally enhanced versions of those. Even so, if you're not picky, Rachmaninoff's music is so wonderful that it can stand up to most semi-decent interpretations. This collection is still enjoyable in that there is a small satisfaction in knowing a little extra Rachmaninoff went into it.
By Sir Man
I bought the Lilacs, Op. 21, No. 5 piece. Sounds like it was played on a cheap, electronic piano. Fake, tinny-sounding notes. Had to delete it from my library.
prelude in csharp minor was in lost
This is not a recording from the 1920s
It is a recording of a recording of Rachmaninov. Rachmaninovs notes were captured on a piano role and recorded when replayed in the 1990s. They were then recorded at studio quality. You are listening to Rachmaninov in Stero. These Ampico recordings are the best in existence of Rachmaninov.
what can i say?
this album is an awesome collection of Rachmaninov's best works. i'm learning to play prelude in c # minor and this original recording is totally helping me in my practice time. gotta love it!
This is a must for all Rachmaninov fans, a great collection of his most famous works played the way he wrote them to be played.
Reffering to the debate on CD to iTunes version:
I also bought the CD about 5 years ago. I went ahead and downloaded the album off of iTunes. The iTunes version is better, the CD sounds great too but there is a certain crisp thickness to iTunes version that the CD is lacking (probably cheaper on iTunes too)
Fabulous Reproduction from Piano Rolls
Just to clarify, this is not a recording from the 20's. These performances are reproduced from impressions made on piano rolls. The impressions were made on a special piano (Ampico) that captured Rachmaninoff's playing. The rolls are played back on mechanical player pianos and that's how these reproductions were recorded in 1979 with modern equipment (hiss free). Nonetheless, this is very close to Rachmaninoff's actual performance. Worth every penny!
comparison to old version of the same CD
In response to another review here, they have most likely cleaned up this recording; the original recording didn't sound this good.
I bought this CD, or one very like it (cover and everything, if memory serves), around ten years ago and already had it ripped to iTunes; but I ended up buying it here, too, because this version is cleaner and has more tracks. Comparing the tracks that are the same songs, there is a sort of tape hiss sound in the other version. This version (on the Apple Music Store) is noticeably better -- sounds very clean, virtually no noise, and any remastering doesn't seem to have hurt the clarity of the piano. However, when comparing more closely, this is actually a different performance! (Incidentally, my CD was apparently copyright 1993; this claims to be 1990... Maybe I need to dig out the original CD.) Anyway, this version (on the AMS) is definitely cleaner sound.
However, leaving the topic of sound quality and talking entirely about the performance, there are a couple little stylistic quirks that I think I like better in the other version. Using the obvious, Prelude in C Sharp Minor, as an example, this version is a bit smoother and more refined, but I actually like the sort of chaotic element thrown into the other version. I'm sure he's still in complete control, but the slow parts are more hesitant (which makes it more emotionally convincing), and fast parts sound a bit more frantic, almost desperate. All of it sounds a bit more passionate, like he's playing about something that his life depends on. Don't worry; the recording here is still similar and much more passionate and impressive than recordings by other artists. Don't hesitate to buy this version.
It's really great to hear Rachmaninoff himself play his music. Again using Prelude as an example, most artists play the "good bits" too slowly by comparison. Listening to the Rachmaninoff performance almost exclusively over the last decade, I've become very spoiled.
Now I'm very happy to have a cleaner version, another performance, and more tracks. For those of us who love to hear good fast playing, "The Flight of the Bumble-Bee" is a really nice one to hear him play. "Liebesfreud" is very impressive, too. And of course he played slow passages well, too; very smooth. The man was a truly amazing pianist.
The tracks on my store-bought CD, in order, are the following tracks (though possibly all from a different performance) from the version here on the Apple Music Store: #2, #3, #4, #12 (labeled "Polka De V.R." on the CD), #6, #8; and then three tracks not on this version, by the London Symphony Orchestra (Sir Eugene Goosens, conductor), all part of the "Symphonic Dances": "Non Allegro", "Andante Con Moto (Tempo Di Valse)", and "Lento Assai (Allegro Vivace)".