Rachmaninov Moments Musicaux

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Sergey Rachmaninov
LABELS: Chandos
ALBUM TITLE: Rachmaninov Moments Musicaux
WORKS: Moments Musicaux; Etudes tableaux, Op. 33; Variations on a Theme of Corelli
PERFORMER: Xiayin Wang (piano)


An astonishing young Chinese pianist, Xaiyin Wang has already produced a delightful CD of Earl Wild compositions and transcriptions for Chandos. Here she fares extremely well in major solo works by Rachmaninov. She powerfully projects the Moments musicaux, much better heard as a cycle than as individual numbers – their lugubrious and emotionally afflicted character is very different from the Schubert works that apparently inspired them. Every one of the nine numbers in the Op. 33 Etudes-tableaux is vividly and incisively characterised, and she conjures a wonderful depth of feeling and range of keyboard colouring in numbers such as the intensely personal No. 3 in C minor; placed cheek by jowl with the drama and drive of No. 4 in D minor, these two numbers show her to be an artist of very wide range.

The Corelli Variations here possesses a poise, dignity and underlying melancholy that not every interpreter finds in this fascinating late work. The subtlety of Wang’s pedalling and touch in the slower variations have a lot to do with the success of her interpretation, but above all it’s the taut rein she keeps on the overall structure that makes it so memorable. I would rank this with, though not decisively above, the excellent versions by Pletnev (DG), Vassily Primakov (Bridge) and Alexander Romanovsky (Decca). In the other works she does not, perhaps, probe as deeply as Vladimir Ashkenazy (Decca) in the Etudes-tableaux, but she yields nothing to him in technique, and I’m inclined to rate her Moments musicaux  as the best currently available, despite strong competition from Howard Shelley (Hyperion) and Lilya Zilberstein (Hänssler Classic).

All in all, a very impressive disc.

Calum MacDonald