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Rachmaninov: Piano Sonata No. 2; Moments Musicaux etc

Sonya Bach (piano) (Rubicon)

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

Piano Sonata No. 2 (1933 version); Moments Musicaux, Op. 16; Preludes Op. 23/4-6
Sonya Bach (piano)
Rubicon RCD 1058   68:18 mins

Any pianist without a known name in a crowded field is staking perhaps too much on a straightforward all-Rachmaninov recital. Sonya Bach has the technique, an array of dynamics (but rarely what’s marked in the score) and that essential asset in this music, rubato, but way too exaggerated to let much of the music flow. You can’t afford to live too much in the moment in the revised 1933 version of the Second Piano Sonata. The outer movements need to tumble headlong, albeit clearly, with only a few moments of respite; Bach lingers way too much, and she just doesn’t get the tumultuous cavalcade of the finale, the general sense of obsession. The outer portions of the slow movement are better, like the D and E flat Preludes of Op. 23 and the beautiful D flat respite of the Moments musicaux. But why start the spring and charge of the famous Alla marcia Prelude loud when Rachmaninov asks for ‘piano’ to suggest the crouching tiger?

No doubt about it, Bach has the stamina for the big lustre of the fourth and sixth Moments musicaux, and the recording serves her well, but elsewhere there’s too much cosy lingering to project the febrile Rachmaninov we’ve come to know and love away from bad tradition.

David Nice