double play

Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No 3 / Etudes-tableaux Leif Ove Andsnes / Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra / Berglund (Virgin 545173 2); 'It's a very Nordic-sounding performance. The tone of it is challenging, hardy' 'Andsnes shapes Rachmaninov's long tunes with grace. But the spark of the "live" event is missing'
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This use of the term "live recording" is beginning to bother me. In what sense is a recording compiled from three different concerts plus a rehearsal session "live"? Either the word means that what you get is the concert experience, what the producer Tony Harrison calls the "single, unpredictable and unrepeatable event", or it doesn't - in which case why use it at all?

Reading Harrison's note on the recording half-way through the Piano Concerto probably coloured the rest of the disc; but it also confirmed something I'd already felt - that this cultivated, intelligent performance isn't quite a performance after all. There's nothing that strikes me as "unpredictable"; it sounds more like the product of careful thought than the inspiration of the moment, or even four separate moments.

Andsnes shapes and shades Rachmaninov's long tunes with grace and sensitivity, and few pianist/ conductor collaborations (Andsnes teaming up fellow Scandinavian Paavo Berglund) have dealt with the many fluctuations of pulse with such subtlety, at least not on record. But the spark of the "live" event is the one thing that's missing, even in the apotheosis of the finale's Big Tune - the moment where the players really have to address the gallery.

Were the fillers, the five Etudes-tableaux, each done in one take? Maybe not, but they still feel much more like musical events, especially in the wonderful tune at the heart of Op 33 No 3 and the ardent Slavic outpourings of No 6. The playing is no finer, the understanding no deeper; it just lives.