Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky: Rachmaninov: Suites for Two Pianos, Nos 1 & 2; Tchaikovsky: Sleeping Beauty – extracts (arr. Rachmaninov)

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COMPOSERS: Rachmaninov,Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Mirare
ALBUM TITLE: Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky
WORKS: Rachmaninov: Suites for Two Pianos, Nos 1 & 2; Tchaikovsky: Sleeping Beauty – extracts (arr. Rachmaninov)
PERFORMER: Boris Berezovsky (piano)


French pianist Brigitte Engerer’s previous recording of Rachmaninov’s glorious two‑piano suites was a solidly dependable outing with Oleg Maisenberg for Harmonia Mundi. Now partnered with the Russian Boris Berezovsky, the glistening cascades of pianistic decoration which litter the opening movement of the First Suite are both more sensual and tonally beguiling. Rachmaninov’s onomatopoeic suggestions of birdsong hover intoxicatingly over the second movement’s evocation of nocturnal passion, and the bell-saturated figurations of the third movement are likewise shaped with the utmost sensitivity to line and atmosphere. They are captured by the Mirare engineers in sumptuous, wide-ranging sound. If only the same could be said of the Second Suite. The opening march and second movement waltzes lack the exultant sweep and sense of exhilaration of the finest recordings, despite having three of Rachmaninov’s most skin-rippling melodies en route. The enraptured slow movement ‘Romance’, although alluringly voiced and beautifully played, also stops short of full emotional intoxication. It is not until the last of the Tchaikovsky excerpts, the great Sleeping Beauty waltz (which we see being recorded and discussed on the accompanying DVD), that these fine artists really let their hair down. Vladimir Ashkenazy and André Previn may ultimately lack the tonal allure of Engerer and Berezovsky (and their pianos are not so well regulated), yet their innate understanding of what this music is all about, both between and behind the notes, still finds all newcomers wanting. Julian Haylock