Rachmaninov ¥ Tchaikovsky

COMPOSERS: Rachmaninov,Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Ondine
ALBUM TITLE: Rachmaninov , Tchaikovsky
WORKS: Piano Sonata No. 1; The Seasons
PERFORMER: Olli Mustonen (piano)
This is a rather frustrating release. There’s no doubt that Olli Mustonen’s dynamic personality brings a welcome sense of individuality to both these works. But in his desire to highlight features of the music that he finds particularly interesting, he tends to distort the natural flow of the musical argument – a serious problem in such a structurally expansive work as the Rachmaninov First Sonata.


Those coming to this complex music for the first time will find it sometimes difficult to follow exactly what is going on, especially when Mustonen takes perverse delight in highlighting inner parts of the texture at the expense of the more obvious melody and bass lineThe opening of the Finale is a special case in point, for although there’s no lack of physical impact in the playing, the resonant acoustic and over-use of pedal making makes a nonsense of the passage in question.

In Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons, Mustonen goes to great lengths to avoid any hint of sentimentality or over-indulgence in his interpretation. Given the essentially salon-like nature of Tchaikovsky’s invention, one might think this to be a welcome objective, but the net result lacks charm, and becomes even prosaic in places.


Mikhail Pletnev, in his 1994 recording on the Virgin label, appears to shares Mustonen’s desire not to over-egg the pudding, but treats these unaffected and elegant miniatures with far more affection. Erik Levi