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**** RACHMANINOFF: Piano Concerto No. 3; six solo piano pieces; Arcadi Volodos, piano;Berlin Philharmonic, James Levine, conductor, Sony Classical

November 19, 2000|DANIEL CARIAGA

The casting, as they say in show biz, is perfect: The undisputed Russian virtuoso of his generation conquers the peak of piano concertos, aided by one of the great orchestras, and led by an important and sympathetic conductor. The results are predictable: This is a new millennium performance to compare to two last-millennium legends, recordings of Rachmaninoff himself and of Vladimir Horowitz. Power and poetry, breadth of dynamics and pianistic color, breathtaking speed and accuracy--these are the components of Volodos' perfectly thrilling reading. Like his models, his is both potent and subtle, and he is supported with similar virtues by his collaborators. The bonus: six unhackneyed, even surprising, gems by the composer make up the unaccompanied solo encores.

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