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Jed Distler, February 2001

"In many respects Rachmaninov's Second and Third Concertos are orchestral showpieces that happen to have big and difficult piano parts. More often than not, the soloist's elaborate note spinnings turn out to be backdrops against which the orchestra sings out the principal themes. There are extended piano passages, like the opening of the Second Concerto's slow movement or the Third Concerto's cadenza, that morph into accompaniments supporting other solo instruments.

"...Idil Biret's first movement is even slower than Richter's leisurely tread, yet her full-bodied tone and fluid phrasing prevent the music from sounding labored. Antoni Wit uncovers long-buried orchestral details and lets them soar. It's easy (and sometimes desirable) to milk the slow movement's expressive potential, yet both conductor and soloist show how effective Rachmaninov's polyrhythmic arc can be when played straight.

"The composer's potent wind and brass writing emerges with similar assurance and purpose in the D minor concerto. Biret injects fresh blood into Rachmaninov's vertiginous patterns, lifting the pedal where others put it down, slowing down where others speed up, and finding motivic counterlines that even Horowitz left untapped. She labors under the weight of the "harder" chordal cadenza (I prefer the lighter alternate one), but the slower tempo enables us to actually hear the pitches in the loud descending chords after the climax. While the finale ...moves with cogency and confidence. In sum, this beautifully engineered disc tells much about these oft-recorded works we think we know better than we actually do."

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1:47:56 PM, 29 November 2015
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