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Pierre's Tuesday Blog

Rachmaninov - Andrei Gavrilov ‎– Piano Concerto Number 3

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December’s Vinyl’s Revenge post is a record I acquired when I was a member of the Columbia Record and Tape Club. It is a performance of Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto featuring Andrei Gavrilov as soloist. The disc was originally released in the Soviet Union under its flagship Melodiya label, but reissued by CBS Masterworks.

Melodiya was established in 1964 as the "All-Union Gramophone Record Firm of the USSR Ministry of Culture Melodiya". By 1973, Melodiya released some 1,200 gramophone records with a total circulation of 190-200 million per year, in addition to 1 million cassettes per year, was exporting its production to more than 70 countries.

The label's production was dominated by classical music, music by Soviet composers and musicians, performances by Soviet theatre actors, and fairy tales for children. For example, Melodiya notably released performances of works by Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Melodiya recordings of classical and folk music appeared on the Melodiya/Angel (USA) and Melodiya/HMV labels as the result of an exclusive contract with EMI, the owner of both labels. A smaller number of recordings were distributed on other labels, particularly after 1989, before Melodiya granted exclusive rights to BMG in 1994. After expiry of the BMG contract in 2003, the company re-opened under new management and in 2006 started re-releasing recordings through its own label.

Andrei Gavrilov was born into a family of artists in Moscow; his mother was the Armenian pianist Assanetta Eguiserian (December 20, 1925 – November 29, 2006), who had studied with Heinrich Neuhaus and gave Gavrilov his first piano lessons at age 2. By the age of 18, after one semester at the conservatory, he won the International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1974 and rose to international fame when, at the Salzburg Festival the same year, he substituted for Sviatoslav Richter. Until 1979, Gavrilov performed in all the major music centers of the world performing up to 90 concerts a year, while continuing his studies at the university.

There are some intriguing bits about this 1976 recording. Reissued by EMI, Eurodisc and distributed elsewhere by Neodiya, the orchestra’s name changes from the Moscow Philharmonic, to USSR State Academic Symphony Orchestra to USSR Symphony Orchestra… As recordings and performances go, this is solid and quite enjoyable.

In 1979, at the first peak of Gavrilov's career, Herbert von Karajan, who had heard him in Tchaikovsky's First Concerto in Berlin, offered recordings of all the Rachmaninoff concertos, despite the fact that Karajan only rarely conducted them. In December 1979, recordings were scheduled in Berlin with the Berlin Philharmonic for the 2nd concerto, but Gavrilov did not appear for the rehearsals. It was discovered that due to his critical remarks about the Soviet regime, the USSR had seized Gavrilov's passport.

Wonder how that would have sounded…

Happy listening!

Sergey RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Concerto No. 3 In D Minor for Piano And Orchestra, Op. 30
Recorded At – Grand Hall Of The Moscow Conservatoire, April 1976

Andrei Gavrilov, Piano
USSR State Academic Orchestra
Alexander Lazarev, conducting

Label: CBS Masterworks ‎– M 36685
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album
Country: US
Released: 1981
(Original Melodiya release, 1976)

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