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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Len Mullenger:

Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Etudes Tableaux Op. 33 Nos: 9 5 6
Etudes Tableaux Op. 39 Nos: 1 2 3 4 9
Six Preludes from Op. 23 Nos: 1 2 4 5 7 8
Six Preludes from Op. 32 Nos: 1 2 6 7 9 10 12
Sviatoslav Richter (piano)
rec: Etudes Tableaux DDD 1988, Preludes ADD 1971 reissued from Olympia
REGIS RRC1022 [74.30]
Bargain price (around £6)

Richter's robustly romantic way with Rachmaninov is a byword. It is perhaps the most memorable aspect of his interpretations but we should not forget the grace he can also mobilise in naturalistic and inevitable accents. This is best heard in Op. 33 No. 5. In this he is closest to his great contemporary Medtner. James Murray's notes offer excellent insights. If there is a criticism of the Etudes Tableaux it is that in their most demonstrative moments they scream out for an orchestra. The composer's fantasy overtops the ability of the piano to express the range of emotions intended without a certain density although he defeats this in the bell-tormented Op. 39 No 7 so memorably orchestrated by Respighi. To this extent Rachmaninov can be compared with Arnold Bax whose Sonatas (especially Nos 2 and 3) often burst the bounds of what can be said with the solo piano. That said Richter is impressive and achieves a sense of spaciousness and stillness that is reserved only to the truly great pianists. In his more pellucid crystalline moments as in No 2 Op. 39 there are never any doubts about the rightness of the music for the instrument. The recording is a tad 'bassy' (much better in the older Preludes recordings) but nothing you won't be able to live with in the light of Richter's performances which define 'grand'. The tapes have been licensed from Olympia. I hope that Regis will be permitted more from Olympia's catalogue.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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