Ah, what a gorgeous piece! Even among Rachmaninoff's output, the soaring transcendence of the melody of this prelude IMHO ranks up there with the very greatest tunes of the composer, alongside the concluding bars of the 2nd movement of the 2nd concerto and the celebrated 18th (?) variation of the Paganini rhapsody.
You seem to feel the music's ebb and flow quite well -- I am convinced by your strong musical intention at the peaks of the music's expansive phrases. There is, however, one fundamental issue that's distracting me: the rhythm of the LH. I would tend to view the lefthand here as an undulating, almost barcarolle-like accompaniment, so in my opinion it needs a bit more flow and regularity. While your internal rhythm from note to note is quite even, to my ears you're breaking up the flow at the tops and bottoms of phrases with a somewhat unseemly pause that almost lengthens the 16ths into an 8th (it might also help to be just a bit more transparent and quieter). That is, I like your general idea of romantically expanding here (and some nice squalling crescendos too btw), but the lefthand in general sounds a tad jerky to my ears. You might try playing just a slightly more leisurely overall tempo and then these hesitations might come into place all on their own. IMHO they should sound like expansions of the rhythm through rubato rather than hesitations (at least that's how I'm hearing them).
Dynamics are nice overall, though there are perhaps a few places you could be more attentive to the pianissimos. Toward the end, I thought I heard a few passages where you were less certain (from, e.g., measures 28-32 when the RH takes over). Some very nice phrasing on the last page, though the closing duo passage seemed slightly awkward in places and could use a bit more legato and, possibly, pedal (I know that's a tricky one). Maybe the ending ritard is a bit too much (you almost seem to temporarily stop, which, for me, interrupts the flow before the closing arpeggiando).
Regarding the sound, I don't think it's too bad (I'm no audiophile by any means), but perhaps just a bit tinny as others have noted. It has an overly high EQ feel to it (IMO).
Even with my reservations, though, I'm glad to hear a performance in which someone has the courage to experiment with his own personal voice and sense of phrasing. My general opinion is that if you temper a few of the rhythmic issues and smooth out a few passages, this will be a very fine performance indeed. I hope you find some use in my comments. I enjoyed listening.
Thanks for listening and commenting. I will
consider your suggestions. I can
play this piece with the metronome, but really wish to use rubato throughout. I don't know if you've played this prelude but for those who haven't, let me say that it is a real
challenge to keep the LH subordinate given all the activity given to it. In fact, since the LH is roughly 2-to-4 times or more as active as the right, all rubato is expressly manifest through the LH. For me, the tempo is determined by the melody, and the LH has to match it.
After listening carefully to both preludes that I submitted, I definitely prefer the sound to the No.4 instead. I will be trying some new ideas provided by listeners with way more experience than me in the recording side when I submit No.5, hopefully this week.
Regarding the "less certain" section, you're hearing it correctly, though it is not less certain
with me. You're hearing an interpretive feature that evidently you don't care for, but I would like to explain. The cadence on the down beat of measure 23 is the large formal ending, with everything that follows a formal "after glow." (Essentially a song with a coda as long as the song itself.) Consequently, from that cadence to the end I am intentionally letting off momentum and energy. In measures 28-30, I actually want the RH subordinate to the LH, where the main melody appears repeatedly in sequence. This then shifts to the RH in m.31. In summary, I see the piece slowly building in the first two pages, achieving the main climax and the "main" ending with the authentic cadence to m.23. From there to the end it is running downward, with a secondary and subdued 2nd climax right before the codetta. Having said all that, my performance evidently wasn't thouroughly convincing to you, but I know that I still have significant room for acquiring mastery. (This stuff is for fall 2012
As for the ending final flourish with a significant ritardando (perhaps too much for you), I believe I was subconciously trying to channel the spirit of the Rach 2, ii ending that you mention. Anyway, again, thanks for your thoughts. I can imagine that I may play this differently almost anytime I play it. Hopefully my Beethoven will hold together better for you. (That will be several weeks from now).