Looking to find a Cd of Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto # 2
that has body, depth and is dynamic sounding. I have purchased the following cd's and do not recommend them at all. For a emmotionally charged piece such as this I feel that the following just fall short:

1. Rachmaninoff # 2 & 3 Horacio Futierrez at Piano
conducted by Loren Mazael of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra-Telarc Digital CD-802-259

2. Rachmaninoff # 2 & Paganini theme
Werner Haas at the piano with the radio symphony Orchestra
of Frankfurt, conducted by Eliahu, Inbal
Pentatone Classic-SACD # HYBRID PTC5186-114

3. Rachmaninoff # 2 & 3-Essential Classics-Sony Label
Yefim Bronfam-piano, # SBK-89734

By the way, I have many Rachmaninoff Piano Cocerto # 3 and
have found two that are amazing. I also have three Beethoven 5th Symphonies and 2 or also excellent. So I know that the performance that you purchase makes all the difference in the sound. In the ones I mentioned its like there is no top, no bottom almost like a compressed MP3
quality. Any thoughts would be appreciated.
Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto # 2, you haven't listen to the Byron Janis recording on Mercury living presence? I believe it is now out on SACD. Janis does the three on this lable to it's better but his two is very good. I also believe Margaret Argerich has a recording on DG that is excellent. There is a Radu lupo on London label I think.
Also forgot there is RCA recording's with Rubinstein/Horwitz,Kapell and also Vladimir Ashkenazy on London/Decca. There are so many to chose from I am sure you will find one that suits your taste.
1. Rachmaninoff # 2 & 3 Horacio Futierrez at Piano
conducted by Loren Mazael of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra-Telarc Digital CD-802-259

This is perhaps too well recorded. Try cranking it - it is meant to be played loud - it is actually very dynamic...one of the nicest recordings of piano - what speakers/amp are you using?

Something with a little more compression will give this piece an "emotional" edge (at least on most systems).

(I am not a pianist - so I can't comment about the performance aspect...)
The Earl Wild performance, remastered by Chesky from the old Reader's Digest recordings, is first rate as well.

Good luck.
The relatively new Hough/Litton/Dallas recording is one of my favorites. It's also available in SACD. However, the sets are expensive. Vlad Ashkenazy's recordings are very good, as is Byron Janis, and Sviatoslov Richter.
Well the version from lazer disc w/ Lenny and Alexis Wisenburg gives me chills. No other version does this. Lenny just seems to milk this performance for all it's worth.
Richter's recording on DG, already mentioned, is often recommended. You might try a newer, live release on EMI from 2005 with Leif Ove Andsnes, one I like very much. While it has great dynamic range, the recording is admittedly a bit sumptuous and it might sound muddy on overly warm systems. But I like Andsnes's measured approach -- he doesn't sentimentalize but still plays with feeling and taste. It's also available on DVD-Audio.
For older stereo versions:

For newer stereo versions:
Zimerman/DG (best sound/performance combo)

If you must have Ashkenazy version get his older Decca Legends with Kondrashin

Also for old fashioned romantic style hard to beat the classic Cliburn/RCA with Reiner paired with very good Tchaikovsky PC 1
Vladimir Ashkenazy on London/Decca conducted by Previn is the best performance.
There are others, but if I could only have one.......

It is not the best sounding by any stretch.

Do you listen to sound or to music ??

I always go with the latter, which I guess makes me a music lover.
A lot of audiophiles prefer the former.
Thank you for your responses. One person asked if I listen to sound or music? The two cannot be separated. If I put on a cd that is lifeless, tinny and in short sounds poor, I will move on. If the performace is great and I cannot hear the bass or treble, then you are missing most of the performance and I might as well listen to a transistor radio (if you can find one). Therefore, I would like to purchase another of my many Rachmaninoff # 2's that involve me in the music. The sound makes a huge difference. Without hearing what is on the LP or CD then you are missing essential parts of the music. I own about 4 Beethoven 5th Symphonies, when taken on its surface makes me sound complusive, but after finding the Mercury Living Presence 5th, all of a sudden it all fell into place, there was an orchestra on the stage and it sounded great, while the other performances did not quite get you there. Yes, I love the music, but when that music is truncated and compressed would you still call it music? Maybe
So I guess you are saying the former in response to Sugarbrie.

There are recordings of Rachmaninov playing his own concertos, but they will not pass your transistor radio test, since they are from the 1920s and 1930s. They are worth a listen for those who can get past the sound and focus on the playing.

I also have the Ashkenazy/Previn among others. It sounds fine, just not the best.
I have 3 versions that I like of this very full blooded Concerto.

CBS version with Cecile Licad piano, Claudio Abbado conducting. CBS Masterworks #MK38672

Evgeny Kissin- RCA Victor Red Seal #07863 57982-2
LSO- Valery Gergiev.

And a cheap Naxos Cd with Jeno Jando Piano, Budapest Symphony Orch. #8.550117
Just for fun I listened to the opening movement of the 2d, by Ashkenazy/Haitink, Wild, Andsnes, Janis/Dorati, and Ogawa. I didn't have time to go thru all I have, ie Hough, Van Cliburn, Richter, Shelly, Ashkenazy/Previn. I included the Janis recording only because of its general rep and your preference for a Merc of Beethoven 5, I assume because of recording as opposed to performance issues.

My least favorite from a sound POV was Janis. The bass was boomy and the piano sound not sufficiencty distinguished from the orchestra.
The Ogawa would not meet your sonic expectations because the performance is too laid back. The recording is quite good however.
Andsnes' performance is the exact opposite of Ogawa - I like its leanness, a breath of fresh air from the overripe nature of so many performances of Rachmaninoff's music. Its a very good recording as well.

IMHO, the best recording for you would be the Chandos digital remastering of Earl Wild/Jasha Horenstein (get the 4CD set). The piano is tightly focused and dynamic, although it does have a spot lighted nature. The orchesta is well recorded, it is not drowned out by the piano. Nice balance. Now the best part! It is an exciting performance as well, one of my top favorites. I think you would love it!
I hadn't listened to the Janis in years, but I remember the strings sounded somewhat flat in the redbook release. I'm curious about any improvements in the new SACD release.
I second Sugarbrie. Ashkenazy on London is a good performance. I too prefer performance over recording sound quality. I can't say that the Ashkenazy recording sounds bad, but it was recorded awhile ago, so take that into consideration.
02-18-08: Shadorne
This is perhaps too well recorded. Try cranking it - it is meant to be played loud - it is actually very dynamic...one of the nicest recordings of piano - what speakers/amp are you using?
Shadorne (System | Reviews | Threads | Answers)

I recently heard about 3 minutes of Rachmaninov 2nd concerto on a very nice system and it was loud. Too loud. To a point it was unrealistic because I simply never heard a piano that can play that loud! It was actually funny. I didn't say anything to the owner of the system when he played it at that level, but makes me wonder why people think it is necessary to play it that loud? Is it because of a poor recording quality or any other reason?
I didn't say anything to the owner of the system when he played it at that level, but makes me wonder why people think it is necessary to play it that loud? Is it because of a poor recording quality or any other reason?

I don't know how loud you are referring to or if it was just too loud for you becuase of the way the recording was made or indeed if it was ridicuolusly loud/cranked.

A concert grand piano can play about 110 db SPL (peaks of course). A full orchestra and chorus in a concert hall will hit around 105 db SPL...(wherever you sit).

It might seem to be irrelevant as one would suppose that one would naturally listen at whatever levels that one prefers. However, this is NOT the case due to a little known and nasty "trick" played on ALL of us by audio engineers.

My point was that each recording is actually mixed for a certain loudness level. Stuff which is compressed and has a "fat" or bloated bass is deliberately engineered to be listened to at lower than realistic volume levels. It still sounds balanced and "punchy" or exciting and live like because of the compression and the juiced up bass (in essence the audio engineer has RAISED the average noise level by surpressing the peaks - so you can listen at lower volumes on mediocre gear).

Music that has been mixed thin in the bass and which is generally uncompressed (a true live recording) can be played much much louder at realistic orchestral levels WITHOUT sounding terribly loud - this is because the average sound level is low whilst only the brief transients are loud. The high peaks at 110 db SPL from percussion (such as the Piano => Hammer hits strings) are extremely short and are not registered as "loud" by the ears.

See this link, Turn Me Up for what I meant.

The result poses several problems =>

1) compressed music sounds bad when turned up.
2) uncompressed music sounds bad or lifeless in comparison to teh above when played too low (at unrealistic levels)
3) uncompressed music is actually so dynamic that it is a challenge for most consumer playback systems to reach the required level to give it edge and excitement. Hence a lot of music produced for consumers (car stereo and such)is HEAVILY compressed and audiophiles, with half decent systems, are the ones that suffer.
4) Some audiophiles begin to prefer or migrate towards audiophile systems that sound best at low volume levels (the system itself compresses and has a bloated bass). This is a result of the audiophile's observation that transparent and uncompressed systems just sound horrible and harsh on their favorite music...(just like the thread the other day with the person who found B&W N802 fatiguing on Guns and Roses after barely twenty minutes...an extreme perhaps but no wonder that it was fatiguing on speakers reknown for transparency/dynamics and popular with many classical listeners...Guns & Roses was probaby mixed to sound best in a car or "best buy" system)

...as usual just two cents. I hope I explained better what I meant. People do have a tendency to turn it up when giving a demo as they want to impress - that may be the problem you observed. Myself, I find I have to constantly change the volume level dramatically depending on how badly compressed the recording is.
Shadorne, yes, you explained it well.
Dear Fellow music enthusiasts:

Ordered a few Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto # 2 and #'3.
So far I have listened to Bryon Janis playing with the
Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, Dorati conducting. The
CD is Mercury Living Presence, non SACD version. I figured since my favorite Beethoven's 5th is Mercury Living Presence why not try. I am very happy with the performace of the 2nd and 3rd. The sound is warm, full blooded and certainly is not lacking in giving me what I beleive the orchestra and piano is playing. I have 2 more on order, will advise what they are like upon receipt. Thanks for the guidance. It is always great to keep learning, and thank you for the opportunity.

May I ask what speakers you are using? Is it still the Quads 988's?

I just can't reconcile your statement

In the ones I mentioned its like there is no top, no bottom almost like a compressed MP3

with the Telarc recording CD-802-259 unless you are still using Quads or something similar that would heavily compress music...tube amps perhaps with a difficult load?

This recording was nominated for a Grammy...sorry to be a pain but, IMHO, there has got to be something wrong if this sounds like a bad MP3 on your system. It might be a tremendous advance for you and your listening pleasure if you where to try to figure out what is making this recording sound so awful...
Anyway - don't believe me - just look at the reviews - only one person complained about the orchestra being too loud on this recording - although he still says "great recording". This is no MP3 even if the piano isn't "close-miked" - which is not suprising given Telarc's tradition of trying to capture the overall concert sound using minimal omnidirectional miking.

Amazon Reviews

...not to criticize and in the spirit of helping out ...but really there might be something wrong - for example when was the last time you changed tubes?
Shouldn't the volume control be only used for an Increase In loudness rather than a level to determine when a cd sounds best? The quality of sound should be constant regardless of the volume level.
Just got out and played my gun, Use your Illusion II from track 1 to the last track, to addictive to switch off, although had to give the neighbors a treat with 'Knockin' on heathens door',
The hole cd sounds very good on a low level but It just begs and pleads to be played on max.
Its rock n' roll, man.............