I have found the one.

Or it found me. I heard this recording on the radio once, driving on Plum Drive where I used to smell fish. Now Apple Music has it. I like Olga Kern at the Van Cliburn competition, but she did not have half the orchestra that is Boston. And others may prefer Ashkenazy with Andre Previn and the LSO, but you who are fond of Rachmaninoff, this one is for keeps.

The Concertos (concerti, fine) #1 and #2 are paired, rather than the usual #2 and #3. Krystian Zimmerman is stunning on the #2, where I began.

Notes

The Moderato: Slow, perfectly-paced.

He takes liberty with the tempo, and I am in accord with that freedom. Incredibly musical, I believe he is in touch with the soul of Sergei somehow. There is no showmanship here, although he could tantalize.

Ozawa and Boston are, of course, in full command of all their senses (and mine).  The dynamic range is substantial huge so maybe have your hand ready to adjust volumes, or use Sound Check (Mac). I am listening to the digital download, but someday I must have this on vinyl . . .

The orchestra and piano are wedded together in this first movement, with each being expressed and brought to the front, while neither is being diminished. The microphone placement for the recording must have been well planned, as the full range of the piano is heard distinctly with no muddling. And yet the orchestra is seamless as well. Leave it to DG to pull out all the stops; they have been in the business since 1898.

I am still listening, anticipating the second movement, and then will continue below the screenshot with details.

Sergei

The Adagio: Dear God thank you.

Krystian’s patience is just . . . gorgeous, the way that he pulls the notes from the piano, from the score, from Rachmaninoff himself who surely received them from the heavens. There is no tone, nor any silence that is wasted or frittered away. How many times have I heard this music? This must be the first time, it is that full of beauty. There is an intimate connection here, and the piano is prominent with the orchestra just beyond, but fully with. This is just as it should be. I want it to be this way, and it simply is.

When the flute enters and is joined by the clarinet (here I paused in prayer, I am not kidding), there is simply no transition. It is as if the two have always played together. And the tone of the clarinet is as smooth as warm butter.

Patience is shown again after the rousing crescendo when Zimmerman goes into the low register and then as the theme gradually returns. That theme just nearly melts me I swear.

The conclusion is to me perfectly timed, and with constantly varied dynamics, showing just how well the conductor, piano, and orchestra are intertwined with the music. And then it just fades into bliss.

The Allegro: Later

It begins with more evidence of careful microphone placement, and I encourage you not to reach for the volume here. All of it must be heard, and it will get almost too loud, but not. And the effect is clear and clean.

Well, I had to stop writing and simply listen.

Maybe don’t read any of this . . . just enjoy the music.