Rachmaninov's opus 1, his first piano concerto, deserves to be heard more often. The opening bars have that heroic sound that raises the hair on the back of the neck. Indeed those first moments rank alongside those of the Grieg and Tchaikovsky piano concertos for their ability to thrill. Ashkenazy's breathtaking playing on a superb piano is matched by that of the Concertgebouw Orchestra under Haitink's direction.
Hungarian Kristóf Baráti is recognised as one of the most outstanding violinists of his generation. His dazzling technique (often compared with the young Heifetz), his sincere, intensely musical interpretations and strong personality have brought him to today's top. This release presents two virtuoso showcases, the violin concertos nos. 1 & 2 by Paganini, the wizard of the violin, suspected of having sold his soul to the devil in order to receive a transcendent technique.
The conventional view of Niccolò Paganini's 24 Caprices puts them among the encores and etudes violinists use to hone their skills and show off their prowess. But Julia Fischer regards them primarily as expressive works that are as rich in lyricism and emotional color as they are in advanced techniques, and her 2010 Decca album shows her considered approach to the music. There's no doubt about Fischer's impressive abilities, which are apparent from hearing the first Caprice, and all the trickiest double- and triple-stops, bowing styles, and various means of articulation that are included in this fantastic work reveal her phenomenal gifts. But as amazing as Fischer's performance is for sheer technique, it is highly pleasurable because of her polished musicality and firm control of every nuance that is either overt or suggested in the music. Highly recommended. (AMG)