This has been a renowned disc since its first issue at full price
in 1994. It has since then held its premium place in the catalogue
with good cause. It's also generously and intrepidly packed.
The Rachmaninov element is seasoned by the two piano pieces by
Medtner. They launch the disc in a flurry of poetry and Russian
chivalric élan. The two works date from the time of the
Third Piano Concerto but tend to more extroversion. They were
premiered in 1940 by the composer and Arthur Alexander and were
recorded by the composer with Benno Moiseiwitsch for the Medtner
Society series. Strange how much they, on occasion, reflect the
exuberance of Arthur Benjamin's Jamaican Rumba
The Rachmaninov pieces are done with verve and a sort of volatile
and explosive joy that expels any air of the mundane. We know
we are in the presence of two princes of virtuosity in the second
movement of the Second Suite. The Russian Rhapsody
first revived on disc by Ashkenazy and Previn for Decca - is
pleasingly done. It dates from 1891 and reflects Rachmaninov
still under the influence of Borodin though there are intimations
of the later maturity in the second part of the Rhapsody. In
the case of the Symphonic Dances
I have been listening
recently to the Magalhaes-Schumann duo on the TwoPianists label.
I found their version of the op.45 work under-characterised and
lacking that spirited impact and zest that I found in Kondrashin's
recording of the orchestral version. Demidenko and Alexeev are
much much closer. They catch the work’s swirl and drama
with a keen blade. There’s a good sense of dialogue, of
give and take, of dynamic variety and climactic structuring.
The erudite but far from fusty notes are by Ates Orga. As Orga
says it is dumbfounding that when the composer proposed to RCA
that he and Horowitz should record the Symphonic Dances
rejected it. One of history's great might-have-beens.
A generous disc, imaginatively produced and presenting music
played with volatile flair and edgy venom.