Thinking of Rachmaninov’s first piano concerto, it is not easy for me to reconcile the work’s relative unpopularity with the abiding love I have felt for this piece ever since I first heard it around the age of seven or eight. By relative unpopularity, I mean of course in the unavoidable comparison with the concertos Nos. 2 and 3, and even the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini – all of which are performed and recorded significantly more often, and seem to have had an easier time gaining the love of audiences and promoters.
Boris Giltburg, closing his Naxos series devoted to the composer’s piano concertos, displays such vivacity at the keyboard that it’s still not easy to relax. The concertos included, the First and Fourth, may not be the most popular, but Giltburg, armed with nimble fingers and the clean attack of his Fazioli piano, treat them both with loving panache, almost matching the top-flight entertainment guaranteed by the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, the album’s third item. [...] I enjoyed this album hugely.
“… the thing about Giltburg’s playing is that aside from being an absolutely consummate, peerless pianist is you can just hear how much he loves this music, he wants listeners to love it too… it’s dynamic, it’s bold, it’s precise, there’s swagger, but as you listen through to the end, it’s almost unbearably beautiful through those cascading arpeggios… I think it’s brilliant. I think the orchestra is brilliant with him. I really, really enjoyed this.”
BBC Radio 3 Record Review