Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Last week, we asked you to name the most virtuosic piano piece ever written. The winner: Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30 (a.k.a. "Rocky 3").

Today we wanted to know, whose version of the concerto is your favorite? Is it that of Vladimir Ashkenazy, Martha Argerich, Leif Ove Andsnes, or Vladimir Horowitz? You chose Horowitz and we played it at 12 noon. 

Compare the cadenza from the first movement from each of the four composers below.


Vladimir Ashkenazy


Martha Argerich


Leif Ove Andsnes


Vladimir Horowitz


Comments [67]

Robert from Natick, Massachusetts

My favorite is a little-known performance by Vladimir Viardo with the late Edouard Mata conducting the Dallas Symphony. My former favorite was Cliburn and Kondrashin after Cliburn's historic win in the Tchaikovsky competition. I think Horowitz's performance was trailblazing and earns an authoritative nod because Rachmaninov so admired the way Horowitz played it, but I much prefer Cliburn's account.

It's also important to recognize that there are two cadenzas. The one that most people play is the original, but I prefer the alternate one that both Cliburn and Viardo chose to play.

Feb. 01 2011 06:40 PM

my two favorites are: volodos/levine and horowitz/reiner.

the second LP i ever bought was gilels/karajan (1954) but it has disappeared altogether into the ether. does anyone know if it has ever been reissued?

Jan. 28 2011 01:31 AM
carol from wyckoff nj

I love Argerich for sheer power, but cast my vote for Horowitz.

Jan. 19 2011 12:02 PM
Rob from Manhattan

no contest - Horowitz!....and I hope you use the Fritz Reiner recording. A stunning performance and excellent supportive conducting.

Jan. 19 2011 12:01 PM
Steve Lepp from Verona, NJ

Martha Argerich is great!!!

Jan. 19 2011 11:59 AM
Feda from New York

I choose Argerich's rendition for her supreme virtuosity and passion.

Jan. 19 2011 11:58 AM
Freya Goldstein

I vote for Argerich

Jan. 19 2011 11:56 AM
Anna from Hackettstown, NJ

No contest ! Vladimir Horowitz.
Thank you.

Jan. 19 2011 11:56 AM
Jale Turcihin from Roosevelt Island

Vladimir Horowitz - above all of them.

Jan. 19 2011 11:55 AM

But I agree that we should hear all of them during the next few days. Please let us know when they will be aired.

Jan. 19 2011 11:54 AM
Alex from New York

Which Horowitz recording are we actually talking about here? WQXR ought to be a little more specific, as the maestro made several, all of which are probably known to those of us voting. If it's the 1941 with Barbirolli, my vote goes to that one for sure. If it's the later one with Ormandy, well, then my vote would definitely go to Argerich...

Jan. 19 2011 11:50 AM
Lilly from Garden City So

They are all wonderful but I choose Argerich.

Jan. 19 2011 11:50 AM

My vote is for Horowitz. There is no pianist who can play Rachmaninoff like he does. Remember that his soul is Russian.

Jan. 19 2011 11:27 AM
Karen from Bayonne, NJ

For virtuosity...
I really think Martha Argerich stands out from the rest...She grabbed my attention and pulled me in without a struggle.
If I hadn't heard her rendition, I would have picked Horowitz.

Thank you for making my favorite radio station so accessable. This past year has been such a treat for me....I've made you my "home" on my computer!

Jan. 19 2011 11:21 AM
David from Newark, NJ

Apparently I'm the only one who likes Ashkenazy's performance. Go Vladimir (A. not H.)!

Jan. 19 2011 11:15 AM
Daniel from Mendham, NJ

Horowitz, please

Jan. 19 2011 11:09 AM
Paul from Long Island, NY

Actually I prefer the one played by Rachmaninoff himself. By the way I have a copy on 78 RPM.
Both records and binder are in excellent condition, I wonder if its rare?

Jan. 19 2011 11:07 AM
Al Luna from Bronx, NY

La fabulosa de Argentina!! Thanks.

Jan. 19 2011 11:04 AM
Chimes from LIC from NY

No one denies all four are great. But after listening to Leif Ove Andsnes, I vote for him. This was clear beauty and a depth of feeling that I did not get from the others. I am not Norwegian and I call them as I feel them.

Jan. 19 2011 11:03 AM
Brad from Toledo

Argerich owns this one, no doubt.

Jan. 19 2011 11:02 AM

Horowitz....he learned this work with
Rachmaninoff playing the second
piano(orchestra part)thus an authentic

Jan. 19 2011 11:00 AM
Bob Schiffmann from NYC

Argerich please, then early Horowitz tomorrow or the next day

Jan. 19 2011 10:57 AM


Jan. 19 2011 10:56 AM
Counce Hancock from Avon, CT

Horowitz? Horowitz.Horowitz!

Jan. 19 2011 10:53 AM
judit from Bronx Ny

I love the Andsnes,but the final choice is Horowitz always and always.

Jan. 19 2011 10:53 AM
marlin swing from new york

Horowitz...he learned this work with
Rachmaninoff playing the second
piano(orchestra part)most authentic
performance to be heard.

Jan. 19 2011 10:50 AM
Pedro Gluten-free from Brooklyn, NY

Martha please. Jorge Bolet another day.

Jan. 19 2011 10:50 AM
Sandy Owen from New York

Why was Sviatoslav Richter not included?

Jan. 19 2011 10:48 AM
Ira Ehrenkranz

Horowitz please - but does he have to play @ 4: PM ?


Just being funny.

Jan. 19 2011 10:47 AM
Paula Whitney Best from New York


Good morning. I vote for the Horowitz version of Rocky 3.

Thank you.

Paula Whitney Best, MA, JD

Jan. 19 2011 10:46 AM
Diane from Tennessee


Jan. 19 2011 10:45 AM
L.Lubin from Fort Lee, NJ

All great pianists, all great interpereters of this work...so hard to choose.
I would like to mention a favorite of mine: Alexis Weissenberg with Leonard Bernstein and L'Orchestre du l'Isle de Paris on EMI. Long out of print except for one movement in a big box collection. This performance goes deeper into the heart of darkness than any other I've ever heard, so it doesn't rate as an audience pleaser, but Bernstein and Weissenberg are fully in accord and structure the piece with infinite care and sense of direction. A very unique interpretation.

Jan. 19 2011 10:39 AM

Today, Andsnes! Tomorrow, Argerich!, Friday, Horowitz, and Saturday, Ashkenazy. I'm not greedy :-). I just adore what each brings to this amazing concerto.

Jan. 19 2011 10:37 AM
Lee Costelloe from Blue Point New York

Just last week I was discussing this very question with Ruth Slenczynska. Ruth's argument compels me to vote for Argerich.

Jan. 19 2011 10:34 AM
jean rinaldo from Union city N.J.

My three favorites recordings of the Rachmaninoff are : the 1941 recording with Horowitz and Toscanini. The Evgeny Kissin with Seji Ozawa and the Boston and the Lazar Berman with Claudio Abbado and the LOS which I think is of unsurpassed quality.
So I voted for Horowitz.
Thank you for giving your listeners a voice in "programing" our radio station....

Jan. 19 2011 10:24 AM
Elaine Schapker from New York

Horowitz please!

Jan. 19 2011 10:20 AM
Sarah from Manhattan

Martha Argerich, please

Jan. 19 2011 10:19 AM
RCA from Loooong Island

Argerich is unbelievable -- among the best ever!

Jan. 19 2011 10:18 AM
Deborah Gonderil from Chicago IL

I say Horowitz play Rock 3 when he came out of a long retirement - it was in Los Angeles. I couldn't breathe for the entire performance an there tears rolling down by the time it ended. A never-to-be-forgotten experience

Jan. 19 2011 10:18 AM
dirk baron herbst from basel/switzerland

@benita: you're right. -
but from all of these four ecxeptionell players: horowitz
was the only one to really know the notes and rachmaninoff himself... -

and again: thanks from the middle of europe to the staff of wqxr!!!
looking foreward to "nixon in china"!


Jan. 19 2011 10:13 AM
Mike Storms from Howard Beach, NY

If it's Rachmaninoff, it has to be Horowitz.
I have a remastered recording of the 3rd Concerto performed by him. It is magnificent, and in my opinion, definitive.

Jan. 19 2011 10:12 AM
Audrey Schneider from West Hempstead, NY11552

Leif Ove Andsnes wins my vote. His playing is always poetic and virtuosic, but at the service of the music, not his ego. And no matter how loud, it's never percussive, rather soaring and singing.

Jan. 19 2011 09:56 AM
James Jones

Martha Argerich is in a class by herself, especially when performing a piece that is so technically demanding. Please, please, let her play this concerto.

Jan. 19 2011 09:55 AM
Benita from Cary, NC

Horowitz - so hard to decide. Would have loved to see all three play together! Yes, I'm a dreamer.

Jan. 19 2011 09:52 AM
joan from NYC


Jan. 19 2011 09:51 AM
LES from Washington, DC

I know only Leif Ova Andsnes's version because I own the CD. While it is good, I'd really love to hear Vlady. The nostalgia and mystique are irresistable.

Jan. 19 2011 09:48 AM
Ruth Detjen from Poughkeepsie, NY

Martha Argerich - clean performance, lighter touch, did not hammer away at the keyoard

Jan. 19 2011 09:35 AM
Sarah E from NYC

I heard the early Rach 3 played by Jorge Bolet on WQXR in the last two weeks. It was an early versio and I thought rather tame. However, I heard him play the Rach 3 at Carnegie Hall, sometime in the 1980s, and it was electric! Every phrase was thoughtful and delicately delineated without disturbing the horizontal lines. The contrasts between gentle themes and the development of the stormy passages was just amazing. I love Martha Argerich's playing, but Bolet was at his heights for this performance. I bought an LP immediately! (Yes, Virginia, people played records!) I have never been able to get a CD of the same concert. I would love to hear the Carnegie Hall version again. But I am sure, you will choose another pianist this time.

Jan. 19 2011 09:22 AM
Michael Meltzer

Rachmaninoff as a composer put notes together in a way as to discover sonorities in the piano no one had ever heard before.
Horowitz as a pianist created tone that no one had ever heard before.
The combination of the two is the meeting of the titans and the culmination of two-and-a-half centuries of piano building.
The others are worth hearing, some other time.

Jan. 19 2011 09:19 AM
Richard from englewood, nj

I grew up with the amazing Horowitz, which has no real equal. But let's hear Argerich this time -- she has that electricity that is hers alone.

Jan. 19 2011 09:10 AM

Byron Janis:)

Jan. 19 2011 09:00 AM
Eileen Jalet from New York, NY

All are wonderful BUT, Horowitz in the man!

Jan. 19 2011 08:57 AM
kaoruo from JPN


Jan. 19 2011 08:42 AM
Judith from New York, NY

Martha Argerich, no contest.

Jan. 19 2011 08:41 AM
Joe Cross from Manhattan


Jan. 19 2011 08:25 AM
Victor from West Orange, NJ

Rachmaninoff seized playing this concerto himself after he heard Horowitz. So, let's trust Rachmaninoff and let Horowitz to play. But who knows, if Rachmaninoff would live longer and have a knowledge of Argerich...

Jan. 19 2011 08:24 AM
silvia from nyc


Jan. 19 2011 08:18 AM
Arnold from Long Island

Horowitz and it's not even close.

Jan. 19 2011 08:17 AM
Jason from Bronx

I have to say Ashkenazy's cadenza is quite amazing.

Jan. 19 2011 08:07 AM


Jan. 19 2011 08:01 AM
daniel from mexico city

Argerich, all fire and ice

Jan. 19 2011 07:49 AM

Short of the original by Rachmaninoff himself, Horowitz has to be the choice,
although Martha Argerich is a close second, I think.

Jan. 19 2011 07:46 AM
NORMAN from Rockville Centre

Only Horowitz of course. He owned that concerto, performed with the New York Philharmonic and Ormandy.

Jan. 19 2011 07:21 AM
Dr. George Bournoutian from NY

I am happy to see 2 of my choices. Please no Ashkenazy. Horowitz's 1930 recording of Rach. 3 is good--the later recording (1970s) is not good at all. I heard it live. I had a number of conversations with Horowitz years ago when I managed a record store in LA. His recordings up to 1950s on RCA are good--a few pieces of the Carnegie Hall 1960s is good too.
I voted for Andnes--sound quality is great--Horowitz's 1930 recording is in a separate category altogether.

Jan. 19 2011 07:09 AM
Louis Colon from NYC

All wizards of the keyboard. But I heard Horowitz play this in London back in the 50s, and I had tears in my eyes.

Jan. 19 2011 06:52 AM
melissa11215 from Brooklyn

Horowitz--the performance transmits electricity.

Jan. 19 2011 05:56 AM
Steve from NYC

They're all excellent but Horowitz, unsurprisingly, is in a class of his own. Horowitz, please.

Jan. 19 2011 05:50 AM

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