A panel of more than 100 of today’s leading concert pianists chooses the Russian virtuoso.
The poll, carried out by Limelight magazine, asked leading pianists including Grigory Sokolov, András Schiff, Alfred Brendel and Paul Lewis to name who they are most inspired by. Rachmaninov, the Russian pianist and composer who made only a handful of recordings in the first half of the 20th century, was voted first in the poll, by a significant margin. Vladimir Horowitz and Sviatoslav Richter took second and third places respectively.
Australian pianist Leslie Howard, who participated in the poll, believes Rachmaninov is unsurpassed to this day: "What’s remarkable about Rachmaninov’s playing is how honest it is. Nothing gets between his playing and his idea of why the piece of music was worth recording. His playing is never cluttered, it’s never fussy and there’s a complete absence of cheap tricks – quite unusual for the time he was recording. I think he’s the greatest pianist of his age and I’m sure he’s the best pianist who ever made a record."
Francis Merson commented: “It has been fascinating to discover which pianists are popular not just among the listening public, but among those who know the instrument inside out – the concert pianists of today. That Rachmaninov has been chosen as the number one piano hero, based on so few recordings, attests to the extraordinary impact of his playing. Rachmaninov had a composer’s vision of each work, allowing him to make the music of Chopin, Liszt and Schumann seem like his own. Of course, he also had a superlative technique, helped by his famously large hands, but his recordings are always intellectually, as well as technically and emotionally, sublime."
Four of the top five pianists in the list are Russians. All but Canadian pianist Glenn Gould are continental Europeans.
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