Rachmaninov Piano Works, Vol. 3 performed by Artur Pizarro

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COMPOSERS: Rachmaninov
LABELS: Odradek
ALBUM TITLE: Rachmaninov
WORKS: Piano Works, Vol. 3: Piano Sonata No. 1; Etudes-tableaux; Morceau de Fantasie ‘Delmo’ – Fughetta; Prelude in D minor; Fragments – Oriental Sketch
PERFORMER: Artur Pizarro (piano)


The most substantial items in this final volume of Artur Pizarro’s Rachmaninov piano music series come in the second disc which couples the mighty First Sonata with the first set of Études-tableaux. Pizarro is at his most expansive in the Sonata, delivering many passages of wonderfully reflective playing, especially in the central slow movement, but refuses to let rip in the more full-blooded passages. There is also a tendency, mirrored in his performance of the Second Sonata in an earlier volume, to meander unduly, thereby sacrificing the structural coherence of the work as a whole.

Yet Pizarro conjures up some marvellously rich sonorities in the slow-tempo third of the Études-tableaux, and elsewhere in this particular set, approaches the elaborate multi-voiced textures with a level of refinement and subtlety that places the music closer than usual to Debussy and Ravel. 

The other two discs offer a mixture of short works without opus numbers and transcriptions, the latter performed with great finesse, but occasionally lacking the last ounce of bravura. Pizarro is particularly persuasive in the precocious epigrammatic pieces Rachmaninov composed as a teenager. It’s fascinating to discover that even at this stage, the composer’s personal voice is already very evident. Likewise, the few fragments that survive from the fateful year 1917, when the composer left his beloved Russia, provide a tantalising indication of potentially new avenues of harmonic exploration.


Erik Levi