Although Sergei Rachmaninov considered himself first and foremost a composer, the last two decades of his life found him knee-deep in his “second career” as a touring concert pianist and recording artist. In 1992, RCA Gold Seal brought out all of Rachmaninov’s recorded performances in a 10-disc set, now reprinted as a space-saving budget box.
Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli's classic recordings of the Ravel G major and Rachmaninov G minor concertos have never been out of the catalog since they first appeared more than 40 years ago. Surface and style are one in this music, and the Italian pianist remains unsurpassed for his icy precision and micro-detailing. He brings pinpointed elan to Rachmaninov's sizzling cross-rhythms in the Fourth Concerto's Allegro Vivace movement, as well as laser-like concentration to the tartly lush Largo. Few have matched Michelangeli's nuance and color in the Ravel concerto, and his seamless dispatch of Ravel's "singing sword" effect in the opening movement belies the notion that you can't bend notes on a piano.
The Dutch cellist Harriet Krijgh and Russian pianist Magda Amara present a program of Rachmaninov pieces that sensitively reflect and capture his genius with this release. Along with well known Rachmaninov repertoire, the CD also includes Sonata for cello and piano op.19 which evolved after a lengthy period of depression and compositional despair catalyzed by the critical failure of his Symphony Nr. 1 and requiring therapeutic treatments to end. Some have said that after emerging from this creative black hole, Rachmaninovs humility and compassion produced works that were richer than was the case previously. This release makes a convincing argument that this was indeed the case.
In celebration of their twentieth anniversary, this essential release from Praga focuses on the artistry of the great Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter. In an all-Rachmaninov program, Richter is heard in the first two Piano Concertos accompanied by the great conductor Kurt Sanderling in live performances recorded in the 50s - well before he began touring internationally. Praga's hybrid SACD pairs remastered monophonic recordings of the concertos with four of Richter's favorite Preludes recorded in stereo during his first tour of North America in 1960. Praga has employed the best of today's cutting-edge restoration techniques to present these important historical recordings in all their original glory.
In the great tradition of Russian pianist-composers, Trifonov may be rightly considered an heir to Rachmaninov - a passionate virtuoso at the keyboard and a Romantic spirit in his own compositions. With this album, the young artist pays tribute to his illustrious musical forefather with a fascinating programme comprising three sets of Rachmaninov Variations: the hyper-virtuostic Variations on a theme of Corelli and the rare Variations on a Theme of Chopin for solo piano, along with the famous and much-loved Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini for piano and orchestra.
Twenty-four year old Chinese pianist Yuja Wang is widely recognized for playing that combines the spontaneity and fearless imagination of youth with the discipline and precision of a mature artist. Regularly lauded for her controlled, prodigious technique, Yuja’s command of the piano has been described as “astounding” and “superhuman,” and she has been praised for her authority over the most complex technical demands of the repertoire, the depth of her musical insight, as well as her fresh interpretations and graceful, charismatic stage presence.
Joseph Moog is a young pianist with a superb technique and a warm tone. He also composes. On this album, he interestingly pairs concertos by two of Russia’s foremost pianist-composers. Anton Rubinstein’s Fourth Piano Concerto actually was in Rachmaninoff’s repertory as a soloist. Drawing attention to the neglected Rubinstein concerto by following it with a more famous work is a device that certainly is welcome. The opening movement of the Rubinstein is heavily influenced by Schumann’s piano concerto, particularly its first movement. Moog here takes on the mantle of the Schumannesque lyric poet, his tonal palette featuring halftones of grays and browns. Moog’s second movement is a true andante , or walking tempo, unlike some other performances. He plays the affecting opening melody simply and directly, introducing a shadow of melancholy that he sustains beautifully throughout the movement.