On this Harmonia Mundi re-issue, part of the label’s Musique d’Abord
series, American pianist Nicholas Angelich plays Rachmaninov’s two sets of
Angelich studied at the Conservatoire de Paris and is now established on
the international scene. I first came across him as a chamber musician on
three marvellous Brahms recordings: first the Piano Trios
in 2004; second the Violin Sonatas
in 2005 and third the Piano
For these Erato recordings Angelich
collaborated with Renaud Capuçon (violin), Gautier Capuçon (cello) and
Gérard Caussé (viola).
Sometimes described as miniature tone poems the set of
, Op. 33 was composed in the summer of 1911 and the
Op. 39 set in the autumn and winter of 1916/17. In between he wrote two
completely different major works The Bells
, Op. 35 and The
, Op. 37. These seventeen works fell within a period in
which Liadov, Scriabin and Taneyev had all died.
A number of composers had written piano Études
but it seems that
Rachmaninov felt especially close to Chopin who may have been the principal
inspiration on this occasion. The composer described his piano
as “picture pieces” which are basically “musical evocations
of external visual stimulae” but the composer was not fond of revealing his
inspirations for each piece. When Respighi was commissioned in 1930 to
orchestrate several of the Études
for the Boston Symphony
Orchestra, Rachmaninov readily revealed what or who was the inspiration
behind those particular pieces.
Angelich demonstrates a firm understanding of these varied collections.
His mellow tone is splendidly blended and he astutely characterises each
work. He gives a firm sense of drama to No. 5
Op. 39 which feels
remarkably tempestuous with a sense of being chased. Where rhythm is
concerned No. 1
Op. 33 has an upbeat, foot-tapping quality.
Remarkable are the subtle shadings Angelich gives to the considerable
Op. 33 with its moving intensity and the even more
substantial No. 2
Op. 39 is, by contrast, lyrical and calm. This
pianist doesn’t hesitate when controlled force is needed - notably in the
boldly assertive No. 6
Op. 39 and in the vigorous playing produced
for No. 9
Angelich is particularly impressive is and very much alive to the varied
moods of these works. He never overstates and avoids heaviness. These
sessions were excellently recorded back in 1994; shame that are not given
the studio location.