Boris Giltburg performs Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and Etudes-tableaux

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COMPOSERS: Rachmaninov
ALBUM TITLE: Rachmaninov
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 2; Etudes-tableaux, Op. 33; plus Kreisler: Liebesleid (arr. Rachmaninov); Behr: Lachtäubchen (arr. Rachmaninov)
PERFORMER: Boris Giltburg (piano); Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Carlos Miguel Prieto
CATALOGUE NO: 8.573629

Yet another CD of Rachmaninov’s ubiquitous Concerto No. 2…but with soloist Boris Giltburg, whose recent recording of the Op. 39 Etudes-tableaux and Moments musicaux was truly exceptional. Giltburg paces the concerto’s solo opening crescendo beautifully; and though he breaks the chords at the bottom note, he’s in good company as the composer did so himself. In terms of sheer pianism, the ensuing saga is frequently breathtaking. It’s not only the fleetness of fingerwork, utter clarity and beauty of tone, but the imagination that goes with it, the placing of pointillist harmonic detail and, when appropriate, a surrender to the grand sweep of the music. The decrescendo at the end of the slow movement cadenza is controlled to the point of an astonishing hold-your-breath whisper. 

The third movement is just a notch slower than usual, but Giltburg and Carlos Miguel Prieto seem to use this to increase drama in its ebb and flow, sometimes convincingly. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra sounds smooth and elegant, even if it could sparkle more in the finale. The Royal Concert Hall Glasgow acoustic is perhaps a touch over-resonant with the piano slightly too much to the fore – not that one would want to miss a note of it. 

Giltburg brings atmosphere and drama to the Etudes-tableaux,  always serving Rachmaninov’s storytelling. The range of his playing – from colour to pacing to emotional shading and sheer heady propulsion – makes for compulsive listening. 


Jessica Duchen