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Crazy for classical...

or just plain crazy. As mentioned in an earlier post, recent viewings of classical music themed anime and movies brought my current music focus back to the classical realm. Which is nothing new as I've concentrated solely on classical for stretches at a time in the past. Even took a music history class back in college that I very much enjoyed and aced to boot. But I have my quirks when it comes to classical pieces. For the most part, slow movements bore me to tears so I generally skip past them unless I want to fall asleep. So sophisticated classical aficionado I'm not.

This time around, I'm fixated on concertos, specifically two of the more difficult pieces out there: Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35 and Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18. Why? Cause they happen to be the centerpieces for Together and Nodame respectively. Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto I've liked ever since I first heard it and is my favorite violin concerto out there, particularly the fast 3rd movement. Rachmaninoff's concerto didn't particularly strike me at first when I first got a CD of it a few years ago but after actually paying attention to it this time around, it's really a beautiful piece.

So just for kicks, I decided to compare different recordings of the 3rd movement of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto by some of the best known violinists within the past few decades. After two weeks or so of constantly listening to the same 9-11 minute movement over and over again during my daily commute, surprisingly, I'm not sick of it yet. =) I couldn't imagine doing something like this with a pop or rock song. Anyway, my list of contestants (with my top 3 first):

  1. David Oistrakh and the Philadelphia Orchestra
  2. Sarah Chang and the London Symphony Orchestra
  3. Itzhak Perlman and the Boston Symphony Orchestra

Of course such a comparison basically comes down to personal choice. My fav 3 will most likely be different from someone else's. And at this level of performance, they're all very good anyway. For the top 3, Oistrakh is consistently top notch. I prefer Chang's 3rd movement more than Perlman's but if I consider the entire piece, then Perlman comes in before Chang. And while I believe Li Chuanyin's performance is top 3 worthy, I don't have the other 2 movements from him so couldn't do a full comparison. The Heifetz recording was a bit of a disappointment since I had heard so many good things about him. While the 3rd movement is supposed to be quick, I think he ripped through it a bit too quickly and because of that started to sound rather scratchy at the high and very fast sections. At the other end of the spectrum, Mutter had a very powerful sound and tone but went at it slower than I like. Fischer's performance is easily top 3 material as well but it's a tough group up there. Although she could possibly replace Chang in my top 3 list. I haven't had time to listen to her entire recording yet.

I suppose it's pretty nuts to purchase 13 copies of the same song just to do a comparison but I enjoyed it. It's a fantastic piece of work. As for Rachmaninoff's piano concerto, I only have 4 copies of it (Richter, Rubinstein, Bronfman and Lang Lang) and they're all great. Anyway, no matter how familiar or unfamiliar you are with the classical music world, you can't go wrong with these 2 pieces. Definitely timeless.

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Comments (5)

kaige:

Heh... Wasn't it just a couple weeks ago that I asked which recording you'd recommend, and you didn't have one? I'll probably (somewhat arbitrarily) start off with the Bell/Tilson Thomas/Berlin version of Tchaikovsky Op35.

Will likely add some Rachmaninoff to my collection, but not sure which performance yet.

Ben:

Yeah I think back then I only had 2 or 3 versions on hand. I haven't really formed a cadre of preferred performers that I'll stick with for later purchases but I definitely can't keep buying 13 or 14 versions of everything. =) Bell is good but wouldn't be my first pick.

As for Rachmaninoff, I _think_ (not 100% sure) that there are more well-known and recording violinists than pianists out there but Rubinstein and Richter are considered greats. As is Horowitz but he doesn't have a recording of the 2nd Concerto on iTunes.

Oregon Duck:

Heifetz, Heifetz, and Heifetz..
Richter, Richter, and Richter..

I'm coocoo for cocoa puffs.

david's version of the tchaikovsky is one of my favourites also! i fell in love when i watched a clip of him on youtube.

i do think heifetz has a very special sound. you may want to try listening to a recording of him doing the sibelius. the piece never did quite engage me until i heard heifetz play it.

as for rach 2, i am mad about ashkenazy's (though i can't quite recall the name of the orchestra). he's not fiery like martha argerich but his restraint and stoicism is great stuff.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 24, 2007 12:54 PM.

The previous post in this blog was Made in China.

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