Post by Hank Drake
For historic I'd pick Kapell/Reiner, along with the composer's own recording with Stokowski. Since I can't restrict myself to just one (or two), I'll also throw in a vote for Moiseiwitsch/Cameron - it's like buttah!
There's no shortage of fine stereo recordings, one of which is Wild/Horenstein. Pennario/Fiedler is not mentioned as often as it should be, imo. The performance has plenty of virtuosity balanced with a warm sentiment that never descends into sentimentality. The 18th Variation is schmaltz-free, while there is plenty of sizzle in the following variations as the work gallops to a close. This ranks very near the top of my preferred recordings of the work.
If you insist on digital, you can't go wrong with Thibaudet/Ashkenazy.
There's another Pennario recording, made in 1961, with Leinsdorf and the LA Phil. It doesn't displace Rubinstein/Reiner as my favorite, but it is briskly paced and well played. It's in a 10-CD box featuring Leinsdorf in a wide range of repertoire, available cheaply on from Amazon.
I like the humor in this work. Particular the last phrase of the piece.
Like people, some pianists just can't tell a joke. Van Cliburn,
though, hits it on the nail, with a matter-of-fact innocence/swagger
that clinches it with perfect comedic timing.
"Seriously, what do you see in that guy?"
"He makes me laugh"
-Jessica Rabbit, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?