Rachmaninov – Piano Concerto No. 4 in g minor, Op. 40 – Pianist Yuri Favorin

Hola a todos.  Are any of the piano majors auditioning this concerto in the Conservatory’s Annual Student Soloist Competition?  Not that I’m aware of and I haven’t heard it coming from any of the practise rooms. 

I enjoyed this superb performance of Sergei Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 4 in g, Op. 40. Here are the performance details:

In Russian:

Академический симфонический оркестр Московской филармонии
Солист – Yuri Favorin
Дирижер – Dimitris Botinis

In English:

Academic Symphony Orchestra of the Moscow Philharmonic
Piano Soloist – Yuri Favorin
Conductor – Dimitris Botinis

Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 4 is neglected, compared to his Second and Third concertos, which are the most often performed.

The Three Versions: 1926, 1928, 1941

You might find it interesting to know that there are three versions of this concerto. There’s the original 1926 manuscript, which was not well received when it premiered. At that point, Rachmaninov decided to make some cuts in the concerto and other changes in the writing and he published that version in 1928.  So that’s the second version.  Well, that version was not well received either. So apparently fed up with the whole thing at that point, Rachmaninov decided to shelve it.  But fortunately for el mundo/the world, he eventually got around to working on it again and revised it.  He published that third and final version in 1941.  That’s the version used in this performance and the most often performed version today.  I’ve heard a performance of the original manuscript and I liked it, but think I prefer the 1941 final version. I read that pianist/conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy prefers the 1926 version having conducted it twice and performed it once as pianist.

Rachmaninov made cuts and/or revisions to some of his pieces because he wasn’t pleased with them and/or they were not well-received. In some instances he made cuts to his music because some people complained that his pieces were too long. He also made cuts to his pieces just to get them performed. He made cuts in the Third Piano Concerto. I’ve heard a recording of a cut Rachmaninov Third and I didn’t like it because I know the piece well from having worked on it and I knew sections were missing.  I’m of the opinion that if one is going to perform his music, perform it as he originally wrote it, or in its final version in the case of the Piano Concerto No. 4.

If there were ever a perfect performance (very rare to come by), this performance would be there among the finest performances.  This performance from the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall by Yuri Favorin and the Academic Symphony Orchestra of the Moscow Philharmonic is very unusual in that I don’t see how it could be improved upon. Yuri plays beautifully. Listen at how he rattles off those well-drilled runs of the third movement, almost on automatic pilot. Very clean playing; never an overuse of pedal. And Rachmaninov barely gives the pianist any break in the third movement.  Superb playing. I noticed his playing position in that he’s often looking up, which helps him see the conductor out of the corner of his eye, but I think that’s Yuri’s way of concentrating and seeing the score in his head since he’s playing from memory. He looks at the keyboard occasionally but often plays by “feel” especially those clean runs of the third movement. The Orchestra is excellent — a really superb string section — as is the conductor. The conductor, Dimitris Botinis, is very laid-back and I enjoyed watching him conduct and his interaction with the pianist and Orchestra. I also noticed the interaction between the First Concertmaster (FCM) and Second Concertmaster (SCM) at the beginning of the third movement where they were counting waiting to come in. After a quick head jerk from the FCM which caused the SCM to smile, the FCM then had another head movement as part of his counting to himself. The SCM noticed that and they smiled at each other.  I think what happened there was that the SCM miscounted and was about to come in too early, but caught herself, because she picked up her violin and then put it back down.

This performance was very well recorded.  Another thing I noticed was that the rapport between the pianist and the Orchestra seemed cold.  There was little interaction between them.  I’m used to seeing a warmer interaction between the pianist and orchestral musicians as one sees in other concerto performances where the orchestral musicians look like they enjoyed playing the piece and were glad that the pianist was there as their invited guest.  I didn’t get that feeling from this performance.  I didn’t see Yuri look at the Orchestra the way I’ve seen other pianists do who feel they are more in a role as part of the Orchestra.  And at the end of the concerto performance, Yuri didn’t thank or acknowledge the Orchestra by shaking the hands of the First and Second Concertmasters.  During the bows, I would have turned around and shared the applause with the Orchestra and applauded them, since they were an equal part in the success of the performance.  He didn’t do that as other soloists I’ve seen do.  I think what I’m suggesting looks very gracious and appreciative, and I would do that if I were piano soloist with an Orchestra.

Yuri’s encore was Rachmaninov’s Études-Tableaux Op. 39, No. 3. I’ve played that one. Mi amigo/My friend was watching this with me and when it came to the encore he said, “Oh that one (from having heard me play it). That’s a good encore. That’s one of my favourite ones.” I said: It’s quite difficult in its own way, especially those random run passages, although not as difficult as some of the others in Op. 39. He said: It looks difficult.

From my personal experience, the thing about Rachmaninov is that if one plays mostly pieces by Rachmaninov and/or Scriabin, it makes pretty much all other pieces feel rather easy to play by comparison.

I’m not directly linking to or embedding this video because whenever I do and it’s not directly from the source (such as the Orchestra’s or pianist’s channel), the copyright nazis at G$$gle/U-toob seem to have nothing better to do than to delete the video and I end up with a “dead page” of sorts.  Nobody is making any dinero/money off of this video — maybe that’s capitalistic, greed-based G$$gle’s problem with it — so the performance merely promotes the musicians involved.  To get to this video, copy the title of it below exactly as I have it into your search engine — I copied it the way they have it and it brought it up — and it should take you there.  Chau.—el barrio rosa

Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No 4 in G minor Yuri Favorin