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Rachmaninov: Piano Concertos Nos 2 & 4

Anna Fedorova (piano); St Gallen Symphony Orchestra/Modestas Pitrėnas (Channel Classics)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Rachmaninov
Piano Concertos Nos 2 & 4
Anna Fedorova (piano); St Gallen Symphony Orchestra/Modestas Pitrėnas
Channel Classics CCS42522   64:45 mins

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Ukrainian pianist Anna Fedorova is clearly not only a fine human being – it’s been difficult to keep up with the number of her fundraising projects in western Europe for her beleaguered country – but also a remarkable artist. Her performance of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 was the highlight of the brand-new Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra’s Prom, and the clear thinking and feeling behind these Rachmaninov concerto interpretations are refreshing indeed: this certainly isn’t just yet another ‘Rach 2’. Fedorova’s commanding contrast of spaciousness with vital forward movement may not be what’s always in the score, but it makes total sense to me in the context of the overall need for tension and release. And while the St Gallen Symphony Orchestra may not be the world’s most plush – the recording in the Tonhalle Theatre keeps things on the realistically dry side – there’s total co-ordination between Fedorova and conductor Modestas Pitrėnas.

The recording was made in November 2021, before the current horrors were unleashed, but Federova is as thoughtful in her post-hoc introduction as she is in the performances. She reminds us, in the face of resistance to Russian repertoire right now, that Rachmaninov was also a refugee who never returned to the motherland after 1918. She also explains her reasons for placing the Fourth Concerto first, defining this amazing and often enigmatic work as ‘a farewell to the past and a dive into a quite terrifying future’, while the Second reminds her of a phoenix. May the Ukrainian phoenix rise from the ashes as soon as possible.

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David Nice