RCA Living Stereo LSC-2237
Rachmaninoff: Concerto No. 3
Byron Janis, piano
Charles Munch, conductor
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Pressing: US, shaded dog
Date first published: 1958
Price range: $27-250 (mean $74)
Comments: The American pianist Byron Janis made two studio recordings of Rachmaninov's third piano concerto. The more famous one is his recording on the Mercury Living Presence label in the early 1960s with Antal Dorati conducting the London Symphony Orchestra. That LP has developed legendary status over the years, having been named to the TAS list. I've owned that record in the past, and frankly speaking, I've not been as blown away by the sound as others claim to have been. The performance, on the other hand, is worth the price of admission. This RCA Living Stereo recording actually preceded the Mercury one by a few years but has never received the same status. One reason perhaps is its rarity. This is not a Living Stereo that you see very often, and to my knowledge, it had one pressing with the stampers 1S/1S*. The performance is no less dynamic or exciting as the Mercury, and I dare say that I might actually prefer the sound of the RCA. As with most of the Living Stereo albums, the bass extension is not particularly deep, but it's forgivable.
In Jonathan Valin's RCA Bible, this album is given a wide range of ratings, from 10++ to fair to very good. Valin writes:
"Although it is not quite as well recorded as the Merc, it is close and a better performance than the Dorati/Janis, to boot. GJC agrees. This is one of my favorite RCA's. The concerto is delightful, and the playing -- especially in the last movement -- is joyous and sprightly. The sound is superior -- not spectacular but naturally balanced, convincingly dynamic and alive. This disc does not have world-beating low end of tremendous sock; but the midband and high end are luminous, very detailed, transparent and lifelike. (Sid Marks dismissed this disc cavalierly for its lack of low end weight. But this is not a record to be passed over -- trust me.) Recorded in 1957."
*The copy displayed on this post is incidentally my second. The first I bought about 10 years ago from Beckham's Books in New Orleans for $40 and sold last year on E-bay. This one I picked up this past weekend for $5.99.
You will find a digitally remastered version of this album, complete with LP facsimile sleeve, in Sony's box set of Byron Janis' complete RCA recordings.