Natasha Paremski's Rach 3 is the best thing that happened to me the week before finals


I had the opportunity to hear Natasha Paremski play Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 (or Rach 3 for short) with the Colorado Symphony a few weekends ago, and it was a tie for the best performance I've ever heard live, right up there with Yekwon Sunwoo, whom I saw with the Colorado Springs Philharmonic a while ago.

Rach 3 is the best piano concerto ever written. It's got catchy themes, good structure, inventive harmonies, virtuosic showcase, and, most importantly, it's more emotionally intense than any other piano concerto. Of course, that's subjective, since everyone feels a unique emotional response to a musical idea. To me, Rach 3 combines the sophistication of Rach 4 with the rawness of Rach 2 in a perfect balance that stretches to its highest right at the end of the piece. I've been in love with it since middle school, and I feel a personal connection to it because I've known it for so long.

As I continue to study and listen to music, my musicality has improved significantly since I last heard Rach 3 live. Now that I know the piece very well, I notice details that I would never have noticed before. Every recording of the piece used to sound the same. Now, they each have their own character. Many of these details I first discovered through Ben Laude's excellent Tonebase video on Yunchan Lim's Rach 3. Detecting them in person felt very special.

Below I list some of the things that made the performance exceptional to me.

Voicing: The internet allows me to listen to this piece as often as I want, and I take full advantage of that. Considering I'm only an amateur, I've heard it a lot. It's a 40-minute piece, yet I could hum the whole thing from memory. I've listened to recordings by Horowitz, Kissin, Wang, Trifonov, Argerich, Matsuev, Weissenberg, etc. Despite this, Paremski was constantly bringing out voices that I had never heard before. Sometimes the sheer absurdity of the degree of obscurity of the voices she found put a massive toothy smile on my face.

Cadenza: I was thrilled that she picked the big ossia cadenza rather than the "mature" one that other pianists default to. I also loved her lack of ritardando. She never stopped, and the sound got bigger and bigger and bigger, the energy never decreasing until after the climax.

Energy: She played the third movement extremely fast. Like, faster than Kocsis. Overall, the whole performance felt full of thrill and energy.

Doubling the bass: I sat about 10 m from that Steinway, and every time she hit one of the bass notes, I felt dopamine coursing through my veins. She frequently modified the score by doubling single bass notes into octaves, sending big walls of musical sound through me. This freedom made me suspect that she would do "the Horowitz thing" at the climax of the third movement, lowering the bass to the very bottom note of the keyboard, and sure enough, she did. It took all of my energy not to shout "HELL YEAH!" to everyone in Boettcher Concert Hall.

Back to home