Rachmaninov: 24 Preludes

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COMPOSERS: Rachmaninov
LABELS: Erato
WORKS: 24 Preludes
PERFORMER: Moura Lympany (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 4509-91714-2 DDD
Is it good for artists to be permanently associated with certain works? Rachmaninov came to regret how his own C sharp minor Prelude was demanded by audiences as a musical calling card, but Moura Lympany has done rather well out of the preludes as a whole. This is her third complete recording, and she was the first pianist ever to record the entire set, in the 1940s. This present issue reveals slightly faster speeds, more fastidious tone control, and a way with the music that is totally at ease with itself.

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All of which might be expected, given the venerable nature of the performer. Yet there’s nothing valedictory about these readings, which animate the autumnal quality of Rachmaninov’s work with a lively spirit and refreshingly vivid colours. Favourite preludes, such as the D major Op. 23/4 and the G sharp minor Op. 32/12, have a rare clarity. Less well known items, the B flat major from Op. 23, for example, invite reconsideration. Listen out for the funereal B minor Op. 32/10; not just the voice of Russia, but of a highly individual and gifted pianist as well. Nicholas Williams