Romanovsky plays Rachmaninov

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Rachmaninov
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Etudes-Tableaux, Op. 39; Corelli Variations, Op. 42
PERFORMER: Alexander Romanovsky (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 4763334

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Alexander Romanovsky’s second CD for Decca really marks out this 24-year-old as something special. His playing has you continuously at the edge of your seat. There isn’t an iota of surplus rhetoric in his account of the Op. 39 Etudes-Tableaux; instead he displays a blend of poise and incisiveness which paradoxically allows the emotional punch – which is considerable, especially in pieces such as the funeral-march No. 7 – to come across all the more powerfully.

And Romanovsky never seems to dig into the keyboard, or hit it – the touch is always light, fleeting, but absolutely precise: hear the Scarlattian delicacy he brings to the toccata-style No. 4. You could almost describe it as throwaway playing were he not so clearly focused on every nuance of the music; or think of it as cool, did Romanovsky not clearly possess a stunning technical equipment that takes the music’s most extreme demands in its stride. In short, he sounds a lot like Rachmaninov himself, and there can hardly be higher praise.

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The Corelli Variations, too, are superbly done, as though conceived in a single breath. There are excellent versions by Pletnev (DG), Lugansky (Warner) and Marshev (Danacord), and Romanovsky seems the equal of them all, though not clearly the superior. But in the Op. 39 Etudes, despite a fine recent account by Alexander Melnikov on Harmonia Mundi, and older, very serviceable discs from Ashkenazy (Decca), Howard Shelley (Hyperion) and Vladimir Ovchinnikov (EMI), I think I would place Romanovsky as the most outstanding of contemporary versions. A truly remarkable disc. Calum MacDonald