Rachmaninov: Complete Piano Works

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COMPOSERS: Rachmaninov
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Complete Piano Works
PERFORMER: Howard Shelley (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDS 44041/8 ADD/DDD
Rachmaninov was one of the greatest pianists of his age and thus his piano music was written with great technical insight. The present issue of the complete solo piano music (also available on separate discs) brings together recordings made between 1978 and 1991.

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The cellular construction of the Preludes, Op. 23, makes them effective either as individuals or as a unified set, and hearing them complete offers an unusual opportunity to reassess this music. For the Preludes, Op. 32, Rachmaninov resisted overdy Romantic melody in favour of more elaborate passagework and sudden, unpredictable flights of fancy. Some of the most eloquent examples of this stylistic change can be found in the spectacularly played Etudes tableaux, Opp. 33 and 39.

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Aside from fine performances of the two sets of variations to themes by Chopin (Op. 22) and Corelli (Op. 42), this collection is also valuable for its inclusion of the shorter early pieces, works in both their original and revised forms, such as the Piano Sonata, Op. 36, and the Melodieftom the Morceaux defantaisie, Op. 3, and the transcriptions of works by composers such as Bach, Schubert and Mendelssohn, which provide a particularly interesting footnote. The result is a fine achievement from pianist Howard Shelley and Hyperion alike. These superbly recorded, idiomatic readings demonstrate Shelley’s virtuoso pianism and affinity for this music in performances of the highest calibre. Nicholas East