Olga Rusina was born
in Russia but has made her home in Poland.
She is heard frequently on Polish radio
and television and has had a number
of prominent pupils, but few of her
recordings have made it to Western Europe
or America. She is especially connected
with the music of Chopin but on this
disc she plays all Rachmaninoff - mostly
mature works with a couple of the very
early pieces. It should be noted that
there are several nomenclature problems
on this disc and its accompanying text
that I will point out as we come to
The earliest pieces
here are two of the Morceaux de Fantasie
Op. 3. The first section of the Élegie
was too lugubrious for me, but Ms. Rusina
contrasted it beautifully with the middle
part and did some imaginative things
with the reprise. She definitely has
original ideas although she does not
always seem to have enough power to
carry them through. Polishynel would
be translated as Pulchinello but is
also rendered as Polichinelle. The approach
here seemed too heroic for such a piece,
although the last part was well done.
Much further on in
the composer’s output are the Preludes
Opp. 23 and 32. The performance of Op.
23 #6 demonstrates the pianist's main
features - very fine shading and an
excellent sense of form contrasted with
occasional lack of power and concentration.
These same attributes are found in her
reading of the famous Op. 23 #5 in addition
to a good deal of eccentricity. However,
some of the hesitation with which she
approaches this work proves to be an
advantage in the build-up to the end
of the piece.
are for some the corner-stone of Rachmaninoff's
piano output. Here we have two from
each set and they would provide a workout
for any pianist - both technically and
pictorially. Ms. Rusina does very well
with the watery opening of Op.33 #8
and develops this into the story middle
section with equal ease. The seventh
étude-tableaux from Op.33 seems
to be Ms. Rusina's favorite of the lot
and she is in total accord with its
emotional sensibility. From Op. 39 we
have numbers 6 and 1. The sixth is the
famous "Little Red Riding Hood" piece
and the pianist gets a good deal of
scariness out of it but as the piece
proceeds on she gets too carried away
and ends up as lost as the title character.
She gets back her sense of control in
Op. 39 #1. As the last piece on the
disc we have a piece entitled merely
"Polka". This is actually what we know
as the "Polka de VR" and it receives
only an average performance here.
As is well-known Rachmaninoff's
ordinal version of the Sonata #2 lasted
about 26 minutes. He later cut it down
to about 18 and then after that Vladimir
Horowitz produced a third version lying
somewhere between the two in length,
which was approved by the composer.
On this disc the Sonata is described
with the term "The secondo gording".
This might imply the second version
but actually seems to be the Horowitz
version, more or less. Strangely, Ms.
Rusina's performance of the Sonata shows
a greater consistency overall and within
the individual movements than her performances
of many of the shorter pieces. Her playing
of the first subject shows great understanding
of the way the composer could combine
emotion with polyphonic mastery. She
plays well in the second section too
although she fails to make enough of
a contrast with the first. Her playing
of the development is rather heavy going
- well-played but not too interesting.
In the slow movement, with its approach
to variation technique, she produces
a very effective combination of sadness
and charm - almost reminiscent of Elgar.
The last movement also shows overall
command. The references to the first
movement are very well-handled and Ms.
Rusina alternated a rather martial tempo
with more "typical" Rachmaninoff to
produce a finely-fashioned end to the
Overall Ms. Rusina
is rather an uneven performer. As said
above she has an excellent sense of
form and can almost effortlessly evoke
the underlying moods of many of the
works on this disc. On the other hand
she sometimes loses sight of the "big
picture" and causes what begins as a
fine performance to deteriorate. Since
all of these works have been recorded
numerous times I can't recommend this
disc as the only recording to have of
them, but I would watch out for Ms.
Rusina in future releases as I think
she might have more to offer in other
repertoire. As for the recording quality
it is serviceable in both halls but
not especially helpful to the pianist.