Rachmaninov: Etudes-Tableaux, Op. 39; Corelli Variations; 6 Poems, Op. 38

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COMPOSERS: Rachmaninov
LABELS: Harmonia Mund
ALBUM TITLE: Rachmaninov
WORKS: Etudes-Tableaux, Op. 39; Corelli Variations; 6 Poems, Op. 38
PERFORMER: Alexander Melnikov (piano); with
Elena Brilova (soprano)

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A relatively hidden light among the more philosophically-minded of younger Russian pianists, Melnikov shows unerring judgment in programming and execution. As I stated both on the Building a Library broadcast and in the summary on p56, I find his interpretation of the Op. 39 Etudes-Tableaux every bit as compelling as Rustem Hayroudinoff’s. Tellingly, both pianists expound eloquently in their booklet notes though Melnikov’s depth and breadth possibly go a little further than Rachmaninov the pianist would have warranted. That’s not a fault when taken on its own terms: the space to make a point, the clarity of the most taxing virtuoso passages and above all the poleaxing emotional journey for the greatest in the series, No. 7 in C minor, all show the hand of a mature master-pianist. Melnikov’s partnership with soprano Elena Brilova in the near-contemporary songs written for the dazzling Nina Koshetz – lover or muse, who knows? – surely touch new heights in the art of the recital duo. Once you’ve adjusted to Brilova’s Slavic vibrato, she proves to have as many colours in her palette as Melnikov. The luminous concordance of voice and piano in the celebrated ‘Daisies’, the lightness of touch in the setting of Bryusov’s ‘Pied Piper’ and the pianistic flight in ‘Sleep’ are all unsurpassable. Melnikov also catches all the subtle heartache and the necessary moments of simplicity in the Corelli Variations – only two opus numbers, but 14 years, away from the second set of Etudes-Tableaux. No need for other benchmarks: this opulently recorded Rachmaninov disc is essential. David Nice