Rachmaninov: Moments musicaux, Op. 16; Morceaux de fantasie, Op. 3; Vocalise, Op. 34/14 (transcr. Kocsis); Prelude, Op. posth.; Zdes’ khorosho, Op. 21/7 (transcr. Anon); Fragments

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COMPOSERS: Rachmaninov
LABELS: Decca
ALBUM TITLE: Rachmaninov
WORKS: Moments musicaux, Op. 16; Morceaux de fantasie, Op. 3; Vocalise, Op. 34/14 (transcr. Kocsis); Prelude, Op. posth.; Zdes’ khorosho, Op. 21/7 (transcr. Anon); Fragments
PERFORMER: Vladimir Ashkenazy (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 475 6198
Rachmaninov’s ubiquitous C sharp minor Prelude was written when the composer was all of 19 years old. Usually it is lifted wholesale from its original place within Rachmaninov’s Morceaux de fantasie, Op. 3 and slotted into collections of his preludes instead. But here Ashkenazy, focusing on Rachmaninov’s early piano works – many of them too little known – provides a rare opportunity to hear the entire set, some of which prove just as striking.

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The Op. 16 Moments Musicaux, too, are not really as well-known as they deserve to be and in this account, thoughtful, poetic yet never sentimental, Ashkenazy makes an almost ideal case for them. The first piece sets the tone: deeply reflective, introverted yet coloured with a refulgent humanity, featuring exquisitely controlled pianissimos and subtly layered voicing. In the rapid numbers there is never a hint of virtuoso histrionics; Ashkenazy plays them with real poise and nobility, as true to Rachmaninov’s own spirit as one could wish, suggesting an identification with this repertoire that is often profoundly moving. The final Vocalise, in Zoltán Kocsis’s filigree transcription, completes a disc of rare treats in which the only tiny upset is a trace of the pianist humming along, enhanced – together, of course, with the rich tone of the piano – by the excellent SACD sound. Jessica Duchen