Rach 4

I noticed that Andsnes, Debargue and Wang are all currently performing or some to be performing the Rach 4. I believe Trifonov was also playing it in recent seasons.
This surprised me a little since it seems to be the least performed of the five; when it rains it pours?
I actually really like this piece particularly the middle movement with the étude-tableau appropriation.

That’s very interesting about Wang - I had completely missed she was taking it up. Think this is one which could suit her.

I barely know it.
Need to relisten to Rach’s own rec of this mofo

Listen to Fiorentino’s as well.
The sound quality is atrocious but the playing is great!


Earl Wild 's Rach 4th with Horenstein is tops in my book.

I like Earl Wild’s take on this concerto, actually.

Mickey is the classic, no?
There’s 2 versions if iirc. Anyone have preference? I can’t remember if there’s a huge difefrence off hand.

Yes, and I’m proud to for once figure out the lingo - there’s a RAI broadcast from Rome 1956, and a studio recording for EMI he made the following year.

With that I think all three I’d mention aside from Rach’s own recording have been brought up - Fiorentino, ABM and Wild - though Gilels, Pletnev etc played it too. I remember Demidenko had it up to great acclaim when he was in his prime too, but it was 20 years ago I last heard it.

I’ll have to go back to Earl Wild’s, it’s been a long time since I’ve heard it.
I’m still surprised about this programming; is there a masonic lodge where pianists go to decide future rep?
If not, can we nominate da sdc?

I’m in the wrong forum for this, but I’ve thought about this as well and actually think it’s an interesting scientific question. What are the mechanisms governing global trends? Remember how popular Rachmaninoff was 20 years ago, and now not so much? How Liszt was frowned upon back in the 1950s (etc), only to be one of the most important people in the literature a few decades later? How “anti-exciting” programs (composed of Schubert sonatas, untranscribed Bach, late Brahms, etc) have made a strong return over the past few years? The large scale trend I’ve seen in art music lately has almost been like a will to hold back, to dampen, to go back to fundamentals, and to portray the world as crackled, lost or broken. ISIS, Russia etc are easy to summon at this point, but I’m weird enough that I’ve begun to ponder not whether they’re influencing eachother, but whether they might have a common cause.

Repertoire coincidences seem to me like they’re the same thing at the micro level. Schumann’s Humoreske had me puzzled in the same way a few years ago for instance. It had been largely neglected by major pianists for several decades, but was suddenly taken up by a bunch of people around 2010 - Sokolov and Volodos even during the same season. And now it’s time for the Rach-4 to step out of the shadows to do its part to inspire new directions and ideas in the world…

…and with that I have written my weirdest message this month.


Here’s Debargue’s Rach 4 from Amsterdam.
He played it on Friday and last night.
I believe this is last night’s performance.

Interesting post:)

Don’t get me started again!

I reckon it has to do with the flat earth… lol. Jk,

I think a minor part of it might be to do with being seen (subconsciously) as doing something new and fresh. At one point, everybody was starting their recitals with a Bach transcription. People heard it and jumped on the band wagon and started making their own transcriptions. That then got done to death, until some pianists started to think that was becoming stale, so did something different. As more people became aware, they start to do it too until it catches on.

It only took a few pianists to bring about the recognition of Liszt until he earnt a place in the standard rep. Kind of what Hamelin did with Alkan and countless other unknown composers. He has brought so much into the limelight it is unbelievable. There are countless YouTube videos, but eventually people will get bored and crave something new.

I think it takes just one influential pianist for others to think, ‘oh thats a good idea’. But these phases can only last so long. Rach concertos have all had their phases. 3rd concerto due to Shine, 2nd concerto just because its the 2nd concerto.

Maybe ISIS and Russia appear to follow the trnds to an extent, but I think those occur due to different forces at play.

Prokofiev 2 got a big revival in the last 10 years too. I never heard it much before 2000, and then suddenly it was everywhere. Competitions, especially. I kind of took over once Rach 3rd started to lose its appeal.

Not that I mind. It’s a great piece, and not quite as overplayed as the Rachmaninoff just yet.

Yeah the Prokofiev Second has definitely replaced the Rach 3 as the competition concerto of choice. This has possibly led it to be played more in general. And yet, apart from Eckardstein I can’t think of any really satisfying versions since 2000.

Personally, I’m hoping people will start playing a lot of Fauré.
I’m keen to hear more of his music.

Oh allright… Through all maths and physics I’ve stuffed my head with over the years the nearest model at hand for me comes from chaos theory (which deals with dynamical systems where a small perturbance can lead to drastic consequences). I think what drives these trend changes in art and society is partly what you’re in to above, but partly also these isolated events where someone does something surprising, or unusual, which makes people take note. I don’t think it necessarily has to be in the same field, but in art music it would for instance be like doing a work differently from how it’s usually done - Yuja’s opening of the Tchai-1 now for instance - the pairing of works which invokes a new feel to a program, or digging up great works which have long been neglected or out of fashion like the Rach-4 here. I don’t think people will necessarily imitate, but I think it will leave a subconscious mark which might make musicians gravitate to new works or inspire new ideas in works already in their repertoire, and through that you have this slow evolution going on.

It’s harder to explain these seemingly non-causal coincidences however, like why four major pianists would suddenly program the neglected Rach-4. And that’s where things start get really interesting since I think that’s just as much due to effects of society and the non-musical world. But this is also where chaos theory quickly turns to quantum mechanics (and probably voodoo etc too), so I won’t go there…

Incidentally, I did some blind listening quizzes with a few friends here over the winter (over e-mail) which I thought was surprisingly interesting. I felt fairly confident I would be able to tell the gender of the performer even when I didn’t recognise the pianist, but it turned out neither mine or the others’ guesses there were any better than chance. What was surprisingly easy to tell however was the date of recording - often to within +/-5 years - and the nationality of the pianist. It further points to the effects culture, and possibly language, has on how music is viewed and expressed. And I’d argue it works both ways - that the artistic trends of our time affect how we act, behave and think in ordinary life.

Am I the only one who thinks the Prok 3 is a better work than Prok 2 :blush:

Well history seems to agree with you, since it’s only been in recent times that Prok 2 has become popular.
Personally I greatly prefer the Second; it’s so dark and brooding.
Incidentally, given the writing I get the impression that Prokofiev must have had a facility for large skips.

xsdc, it’s interesting what you say above not being able to tell the gender of pianists.
This is something I’ve believed for a long time and I dislike it when people say things like “a woman couldn’t play this”.
I’m not sure why these pianists have turned to the Rach 4 except for the fact that it’s Rachmaninoff, so orchestras won’t be unwilling to play it and it’s not been done to death so they can more easily make a statement with it.
As far as Yuja’s arpeggiating the opening of the Tchaik 1, I actually greatly disliked that.
It makes such a greater statement when you play them as chords. Like when Horowitz first played it in Hamburg.