Rachmaninov: Music for Piano

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COMPOSERS: Rachmaninov
LABELS: Signum
WORKS: Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 36; selected Preludes Opp. 32 & 33; Two Song Transcriptions; Cinq morceaux, Op. 3: Elegie No. 1; Prelude in C sharp minor No. 2
PERFORMER: Jeremy Filsell (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: Signum SIGCD230

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In his booklet notes, Jeremy Filsell confesses that through featuring repertory that has remained in his consciousness ever since he ‘could first reach the piano’s keys and pedals simultaneously’ this recording represents ‘the sum of a personal musical journey’. Such close identification with what he terms ‘Rachmaninov’s inexhaustible variety of expression’ is strongly reflected in his well-chosen and warmly recorded programme which inevitably includes many familiar favourites.

The recital gets off to an impressive start with expressive accounts of the early Elegie Op. 3 and the ubiquitous Prelude in C sharp minor. In both works, Filsell creates a rich and tonally varied sound while at the same time demonstrating an instinctive feeling for rubato – features that are also very much in evidence in some of the slower Preludes such as the D major and E flat major (Op. 23) or the B minor (Op. 32).

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The G minor Prelude, on the other hand, is more of a mixed bag. Although Filsell brings out the beautiful inner part in the middle section, the balance of textures at the outset is skewed far too much in favour of the accompanying militaristic rhythms, particularly in the louder passagework. There are problems, as well, in the Sonata No. 2, performed here in the revised 1931 version. Although Filsell effectively conveys the restless agitato feeling of the first movement, the piano tone seems weak in the upper registers and lacks the mercurial brilliance that Yevgeny Sudbin on BIS brings to the movement. Filsell opens the Finale with urgency but runs out of steam just at the Presto, where you would expect him to drive the music to a fiery climax. Erik Levi