Rachmaninov – Piano Concerto No. 4 – pianist Simon Tedeschi – Sydney Symphony Orchestra

Hola a todos. Here is a splendid performance of Sergei Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No 4 in g minor, Op 40 (1941 Version) with pianist Simon Tedeschi and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra conducted by Benjamin Northey in the Sydney Opera House. This is a performance from 2017 and overall the best one I’ve heard.

Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 4 is neglected compared to his Second and Third concertos, which are the most often performed. This concerto needs to be performed more often. Give the Second and Third a little break.

Some History: The three versions of this concerto (the 1926, 1928, and 1941)

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. 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 final version in 1941, and that’s the version performed in the video below 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 version. I read that pianist/conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy prefers the 1926 version having conducted it twice and performed it once as piano soloist.

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 knew sections were missing. I’ve played the Third in its original form — although not with an orchestra; concerto opportunities don’t come around that often unless one has an agent and works as an international concert artist or takes part in piano competitions — so I knew that not all of the piece was there. 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.

What’s there to say about this performance? Well, I have nothing but positive things to say about it. Should I have the opportunity to play this concerto with an orchestra some day, I hope to play it as well! This is my favourite performance of this concerto available online at YT. Simon plays beautifully. Absolutely. He seems very relaxed and to thoroughly enjoy himself in this performance. He doesn’t seem to be the least bit nervous. I noticed he was smiling to himself while he was accompanying the orchestra with some piano texture while listening to those superb first violins who had the melody. That begins at 9.35 in the video (or you may want to start it a bit before to lead into that section). Later, listen to how he rattles off those well-drilled runs of the third movement. Very clean playing and never an overuse of pedal. Rachmaninov barely gives the pianist any break in the third movement and the orchestra is very busy as well. Superb playing all around. The Sydney Symphony Orchestra is one of the finest — a really excellent string section; they are amazing — and I enjoyed watching the conductor and the leader/concertmaster, the second chair violinist and the principal cellist among others. I’ve watched this performance many times and it’s most enjoyable. I never tire of watching it. It’s also extremely well recorded including the camera work which is not always the case with piano concerto performances. There was another performance on YT equally as good I would say, but that performance was removed due to the orchestra from Moscow making a copyright claim. (roll eyes; sigh). So I was very pleased when I found this outstanding performance from Simon and the Sydney SO.

By the way, the Steinway & Sons piano he’s playing is one of the finest I’ve heard. Listen to that sparkling treble register. It’s probably a Homborg Steinway, as opposed to a New York Steinway. Also, Simon and Mark (the conductor) seem to have a really good rapport which is very important in concerto performances. Simon uses tasteful rubato in places and the orchestra accompanies him accordingly.

Nice to see him avoiding the black and white performance tradition/rut of the classical music tradition by wearing a burgundy jacket (very pretty) which matches the arms of his glasses if you look closely. Chau.—el barrio rosa

4 comments on “Rachmaninov – Piano Concerto No. 4 – pianist Simon Tedeschi – Sydney Symphony Orchestra

  1. Conservatory Student

    Hey – quick question – were you a Performance Major? You’ve mentioned learning the Rachmaninov 3rd and 4th, so just curious. Thx.

    1. el barrio rosa Post author

      “were you a Performance Major?”

      Not officially/formally. I was in the Music Education degree programme with a choral focus and trained as a Chorus Director to work in the public schools. But pianistically I was trained more as if I were a Piano Performance Major. Since my high school days, I’ve always been attracted to the more difficult piano repertoire, and especially interested in Rachmaninov and Scriabin. When I was teaching piano, some of my students would say, “You never play anything easy do you?” I laughed at that because I do play some easier pieces (mood pieces) and they’d had heard some of them occasionally when I played them for them. After a regular diet of Rachmaninov and/or Scriabin, pretty much anything feels easy! As I’m sure you know as a well-trained musician, easier/mood pieces are good for starting a recital (and calming nervousness), for example, rather than starting out blazing. Although some pianists prefer to start out blazing. I’m not one of them. Or after playing one of the Rachmaninov Études-Tableaux, for example, I’d play a slower mood piece by Scriabin or maybe Poulenc or Scarlatti to take a little break. There was only one other student at the Conservatory that I can remember who I was friends with in the Music Education programme who was trained the same way I was, and she played the first movement of the Rachmaninov Second beautifully with the Conservatory Symphony Orchestra after winning the annual Student Soloist Competition one year. Then my organ professor (I was a voice and organ minor for 3 years, as opposed to the required 2 years) wanted me to become an organ major, but after thinking about it I stayed a piano major. I don’t think he liked my decision, but I thought that was best. And I thought a double major would be too much with all that I had going on, including student teaching — which I thoroughly enjoyed; it was a very positive experience and the students were all very respectful of me being a student teacher — in the public schools in the last year.

      Gracias for your comment.

  2. D8

    Beautiful! Thanks, gracias. Rachmaninov is one of my favorite composers. Interesting history about it. I’m enjoying your music articles. :-)

Fin. The End.