Rachmaninoff: Three Nocturnes; Four Pieces; Morceaux de salon, Op. 10

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Rachmaninoff
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Three Nocturnes; Four Pieces; Morceaux de salon, Op. 10
PERFORMER: Idil Biret (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.553004
This is early Rachmaninoff. The Three Nocturnes were written when he was 14, the Four Pieces the following year, and the Morceaux de salon were complete by around the time of his 21st birthday. ‘Nocturne’ was clearly a label of convenience. There’s nothing of the night about these robust, four-square, rather repetitive pieces. But they’re interesting for the precocity they reveal, and if their young composer’s harmony is rather predictable, his feel for piano style and for the whole ethos of the instrument is astonishingly well developed. The Morceaux de salon, juvenilia though they are, give us a foretaste of the mature Rachmaninoff, composer of the Op.23 Preludes and the Etudes-Tableaux.

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Idil Biret herself was a prodigy, graduating from the Paris Conservatoire at the age of 15, and she has made many impressive recordings over the years, among them the CD of Rachmaninoff Transcriptions and Arrangements which I reviewed in August 1998. On the present disc she shows the same easy affinity with Rachmaninoff’s music, the same innate ability to take the listener on a voyage of discovery, exploring a whole range of moods and textures and making each piece her own. Another winner from an inspired Rachmaninoff player. Wadham Sutton