Rachmaninov: Rachmaninov: Cello Sonata; Danse orientale, Op. 2 No. 2; plus various works arr. Maisky

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COMPOSERS: Rachmaninov
LABELS: DG
ALBUM TITLE: Rachmaninov
WORKS: Rachmaninov: Cello Sonata; Danse orientale, Op. 2 No. 2; plus various works arr. Maisky
PERFORMER: Mischa Maisky (cello), Sergio Tiempo (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 477 7235

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Unlike Mischa Maisky’s earlier disc of Russian songs arranged for cello, Vocalise (reviewed December 2005), his Rachmaninov assortment, titled Élégie, offers a multifaceted diamond among the lesser gems of what are once again, for the most part, his own modest transcriptions. He claims he has been waiting for the right pianist to come along and record the Cello Sonata with him, and it is easy to see why he chose Sergio Tiempo as his partner. Tiempo’s easy grace and crystalline spring to the playing provide a magic carpet on which Maisky billows and soars, and the surrounding airiness of the live Lugano recording certainly helps to make this a new benchmark. Their combined sense of movement is far freer and more forward-looking than Gautier Capuçon’s and Gabriela Montero’s, who tend to highlight the many lyric inspirations in this effusive work rather than allowing them to seem to flow naturally from the argument. Maisky and Tiempo even persuade us that the song of the Scherzo’s trio, languishing indulgently in the hands of the rival duo, matches its delightful counterpart in the main body of the movement; though when it comes to sustained reverie in the slow movement, some listeners may prefer the steady flow of Capuçon and Montero to the palpitating rubato of DG’s team. Otherwise, this freedom is an asset in the outer‑movement development sections, and Tiempo is far more mesmerising in the steady lead back into the first movement recap than Montero, who tends to make heavy weather of it almost as a self‑contained cadenza. The song and piano transcriptions of Maisky’s Élégie are cleverly arranged as groups around a home key: the Prelude, Op. 23 No. 10, speaks eloquently in one steady arch of song, though the one miniature that Rachmaninov actually wrote for cello and piano, ‘Danse orientale’, is the least interesting of the sequence. Capuçon and Montero, who programme the more usual Rachmaninov encores, carefully avoid laying on the emotion; and if the leonine utterances that frame the Prokofiev Sonata cast less resplendent shadows than the original team of Rostropovich and Richter (available either on EMI or Brilliant), or the more recent Ma and Ax (on Sony), there’s certainly a subtle concern here for the more introspective and troubled utterances of this simple‑seeming work. David Nice