Rachmaninov

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COMPOSERS: Rachmaninov
LABELS: Odradek
WORKS: Corelli Variations; Sonata No. 2; Moments musicaux, Op. 16; Morçeaux, Op. 10; Etudes-tableaux, Op. 39
PERFORMER: Artur Pizarro (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ODRCD 315

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In the booklet notes accompanying the first volume in this projected cycle of the complete piano works, Artur Pizarro describes his relationship to Rachmaninov’s music as entirely ‘personal and emotional’. His approach is unashamedly Romantic, with a wonderfully fluid conception of tempo and expressive nuance, and he creates rich and varied timbres.

Pizarro is especially convincing in the lesser-known Morçeaux de salon Op. 10 and Moments musicaux Op. 16. He projects the brooding Tchaikovskian melancholy of the ‘Nocturne’, ‘Mélodie’ and ‘Romance’ in the earlier set with great emotional fervour, and brings gravitas and nobility to the darkly introverted B minor Adagio of Op. 16. A special highlight is the rhythmically pungent ‘Humoresque’ from Op. 10, presented here in the more harmonically piquant 1940 version. It’s given a barnstorming performance, providing one of many examples of Pizarro’s dazzling finger dexterity.

I was somewhat less convinced by Pizarro’s interpretation of the 1917 Etudes-tableaux. Once again, the technical control in these fearsomely difficult pieces is beyond reproach. Yet I wonder whether the performances of such physically demanding pieces as the third and sixth studies could afford to be more febrile and on the edge. Likewise, Pizarro’s delivery of the truncated 1931 version of the Second Sonata seems a little wayward and, especially in the first movement, lacks structural coherence and necessary forward momentum. Yet despite these reservations, there is a great deal to enjoy here, particularly given Odradek’s outstandingly vivid recorded sound.

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Erik Levi