Rachmaninov

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COMPOSERS: Rachmaninov
LABELS: Odradek
ALBUM TITLE: Rachmaninov
WORKS: Piano works, Vol. 2: 13 Preludes, Op. 32; Variations on a Theme of Chopin, Op. 22; Morçeaux de fantaisie, Op. 3; 10 Preludes, Op. 23
PERFORMER: Artur Pizarro (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ODRCD 316

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It’s unusual to glean so many echoes of Debussy while listening to Rachmaninov. Yet this is exactly what Artur Pizarro conjures up in this, the second volume of his survey of the Russian composer’s piano music. Even the Op. 3 set of Cinq morçeaux de fantaisie bears witness to such an unexpected kinship. Take, for example, the Elegie, a piece that to all intents and purposes follows very much in the footsteps of Tchaikovsky. Here, however, Pizarro bathes its introverted Slavic melancholy in a kind of impressionist haze through his subtle use of the pedal. Likewise, the rich timbral chords in the well-known C sharp minor Prelude sound rather different, being delivered with the same degree of mystical grandeur that is normally encountered in Debussy’s La cathédrale engloutie.

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Connections to French music are perhaps more overt in the Preludes. Certainly, Pizarro imbues the G major and the G sharp minor Preludes from Op. 32 with a luminous, almost Ravelian elegance and delicacy, placing these colours in sharp contrast to the dark and despondent gloom that clouds the B minor. In other more reflective Preludes, Pizarro’s playing is absolutely exquisite, not only revelling in the expressive beauty of Rachmaninov’s invention, but also managing to draw out lots of interesting inner melodic voices in the more densely scored passages. Pizarro’s impeccable technique ensures that such mercurial showpieces as the ‘Polichinelle’ from Op. 3 or the A major Presto Chopin variation are dispatched with dazzling lightness of touch. The only minor drawback in this marvellously recorded set is a slight reluctance to let rip in the more exuberant works such as the bold and demonstrative B flat major Prelude from Op. 23. Erik Levi