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Jed Distler, October 2000

"Idil Biret and Antoni Wit play Rachmaninov's First Concerto to the proverbial hilt, basking in its wide-eyed virtuosity, gushing ideas, and emotional generosity. The pianist's arching phrases and harmonic awareness, in fact, are not far removed from Rachmaninov's own approach to his youthful opus, though no one, not even Richter, launches into the first movement cadenza with the composer/pianist's shattering, near-demonic intensity. Wit takes special care to differentiate the brass and wind repeated notes at the Fourth concerto's outset, while not allowing his full-bodied strings to wear their hearts on their sleeves when they take up the piano's declamatory opening theme. Biret, in turn, scampers through the rollicking final movement, matching Earl Wild's playful stance note for note. Although I still prefer the older pianist's Rach Fourth for Horenstein's vitally inflected conducting, the present version ranks among this misunderstood concerto's finest recordings. I would say the same for the Paganini Rhapsody ...for Biret's incisive, sharply accented pianism is an absolute delight. Naxos' budget price makes this disc well worth investigating."

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