Rachmaninov: Etudes-tableaux, Opp. 33 & 39

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COMPOSERS: Rachmaninov
LABELS: Nimbus
WORKS: Etudes-tableaux, Opp. 33 & 39
PERFORMER: John Lill (piano)
Rachmaninov’s 17 Etudes-tableaux have never been as well known as his 24 Preludes, and who’s to judge if they have less potential for popularity? Both the musical invention and the elaborate resources of keyboard writing are there, so if you like Rachmaninov’s piano music, and want to explore it systematically, this is as good as any of the current complete recordings of these pieces. Nimbus seem to have modified their policy of a bathroom acoustic, for the piano sound here is closer and fuller than on Demidenko’s mixed Rachmaninov recital on Hyperion – still, for interpretation, one of the best around. Although Lill has been recorded decently, Nimbus could surely have managed a wider dynamic range, and Lill himself is a bit short on temperament, even reluctant to switch his mood as rapidly as the music sometimes demands. For instance, in the very first piece, he hardly does anything to orchestrate the little glimpses of exotic distance which break into the main idea. Since these are all relatively short pieces and not written to be played only as a complete set, they could do with more highlighting of their internal structure. Lill emphasises a sense of continuity and a prevailing character of noble gravity. Adrian Jack