One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,416 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All APR reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount



CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS
Download from The Classical Shop

Serge RACHMANINOFF (1873-1973)
Moments musicaux Op.16 (1896) [27:33]
Études-tableaux Op.33 (1911) [23:35]
Variations on a theme of Corelli Op.42 (1931) [17:45]
Xiayin Wang (piano)
rec. Amercican Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, USA, 7-8 November 2011, 10 February 2012
CHANDOS CHAN 10724 [69:18]

Experience Classicsonline


Pianist Xiayin Wang’s previous outing for Chandos so impressed me I made it one of my 2011 discs of the year. No surprise therefore that I should be looking forward to another disc from the same creative and technical team and a pleasure to report that all my hopes and expectations are fulfilled. This new offering is a superb disc on every front; well-programmed, excellent engineering and production values all backing up piano playing and music-making of stellar quality.
From the very first listen it was clear that this was a very good disc indeed but its exceptional quality impinged on me with each repeated hearing. This is because Wang does everything so very very well that at first the sheer technique and musicianlyness of her playing slips you by. There are many valid approaches to Rachmaninoff’s glorious keyboard music and although Wang embraces the grand and rhetorical passages to full effect her great strength is not to overstate the big gestures or beat her instrument into submission. She wears her phenomenal technique with such unassuming ease that is only when you compare her playing to other major international artists you realise that where they bluster and fudge she is all clarity and layered control. Time and again throughout the programme this is clear but take one simple example – the E minor Presto movement, the 4th of the Op.16 Moments Musicaux. This is a fascinating and transitional set with the twenty-three year old Rachmaninoff beginning to create a sound world uniquely his own. He moves from music of a – albeit sophisticated – salon nature to passages that presage the brooding dark-hued tone paintings of his maturity. This Presto is a surging, stormy showpiece with streams of running figurations over which the melody heroically sings. Wang is totally at ease with the subtle ebb and flow this music requires but the real brilliance is in the clarity of the inner lines with every note perfectly etched, balanced and articulate. I have a not wholly rational attachment to Michael Ponti’s traversal of the complete Rachmaninoff piano works from their Vox-Turnabout LP days. I still enjoy the sheer drama of his playing but he sounds musically generalised and technically challenged in ways that Wang brushes away. Even such formidable players as Dmitri Aleexev on Virgin wrestle with the complexity of Rachmaninoff’s unforgiving writing. Taken together this Op.16 set is substantial running to nearly half an hour’s music. Wang gives the most convincing performance of this highly enjoyable set that I have ever heard.
Praise at this point too for the programme playing. Presenting three significant works (or sets) which span nearly forty years of the composer’s life in chronological order does give the listener a fascinating sense of the creative arc from salon-pictorial to cerebral abstraction via the high romance of the Études-tableaux Op.33. David Nice in his liner note is predictably insightful on both musical and psychological levels. By title alone this Op.33 set of eight pieces – although numbered up to nine, number four was removed and reworked as number six of the companion Op.39 set – would seem to imply some kind of pictures in sound. Rachmaninoff’s progression as a composer is evidenced in the way this shorter cycle – just twenty three or so minutes in Wang’s performance – feels like a substantially ‘bigger’ work than the discursive Moments musicaux. Wang has power to spare but the real pleasure to be had here again is in the beauty and control of her playing. Take the very opening on the first Étude; the left hand accompaniment is little short of a masterclass in voicing contrasting lines from stomping strong beats to brightly bouncing ‘off’ beats supporting a long-breathed lyrical melody. Counter melodies and subtleties of the contrapuntal writing emerge as rarely before but without any sense of clinical dissection. Competition here is of course even stronger than in the slightly rarer early cycle and to single out any performance as the best of all seems both foolish and pointless. Suffice to say Wang takes her rightful place in the very highest echelons of excellence. Possibly, just possibly, I might choose to turn to performances longer on sheer theatrical splendour but that is my own personal taste.
All of the qualities previously mentioned are of particular value in the relatively late Variations on as theme of Corelli Op.42. The great stock-pot of Rachmaninoff’s inspiration has been reducing down ever further the sheer fecundity of his writing. The composer might have apologised to an early listener that “when I sit down to write, it does not come to me as easily … as in former years” but what we have instead is writing pared back to emotional and musical essentials. Performing time is further condensed to the sub-eighteen minute mark. Yet into this Rachmaninoff crams a theme, some nineteen variations, an Intermezzo and a Coda. With the longest – Variation XV – just managing to scrape past the minute and a half point, this is Rachmaninoff at his tersest yet still with a remarkable range of keyboard colour and emotion. The brevity, however, is why they have never gained the popularity his longer more verbose, sometimes indulgent works have. Again Wang is a remarkable guide. Rather than fragmentary, the through line of groups of variations are brilliantly defined and the range of expression from surging Variation VII to water-colour miniaturist of Variation IX is encompassed without contrivance or artifice. Credit to the piano – a Steinway one assumes since Wang’s biography says she is ‘a Steinway Artist’ - for having an action that allows Wang to articulate the repeated note groups of Variation XIII – another example of her staggeringly clean technique. Super fine though the rest of the disc is, this set of Variations crowns the lot with a rendition where every element of the performance seems near ideal.
As mentioned earlier, the engineering here is very good – the piano is caught with a warm yet clear sound in an ideal acoustic using Chandos’ now standard 24-bit resolution recording techniques. Playing time is generous and the liner informative. For all their comprehensive editions, curiously Chandos have never produced a coherent collection from a single pianist of Rachmaninoff’s solo piano works. I suppose the fact that Hyperion rather stole the march on them by recording house pianist Howard Shelley in just such a cycle means that the project never took wing. In Xiayin Wang they might just have found the player to do justice to it. A disc of exceptional quality.
Nick Barnard


































































Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.