Sergei RACHMANINOFF (1873-1943)
Prelude in C sharp minor, Op. 3 No. 2 [4:09]
Ten Preludes, Op. 23 [32:08]
Thirteen Preludes, Op. 32 [39:34]
Lukas Geniušas (piano)
rec. live, 25 March 2013, Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, Russia

This is an extremely good recording of the complete Rachmaninoff preludes. It’s also a live recording, a single concert on 25 March 2013, which makes it an extraordinary achievement. The concentration, skill, stamina and imagination required to perform at such a high level, through the entire cycle, demonstrate that Lukas Geniušas is a formidable pianist. Indeed, one is tempted to make a pun about his last name.

Geniušas actually improves as he goes along, too. The preludes Op. 23 Nos. 2-4 are maybe the plainest performances. No. 3 is just too square but Geniušas does not lose strength by the end. Quite the contrary: once you get to the Op. 32 set of preludes, you realize something special is happening. Geniušas drives the rhythm of the E minor prelude (Op. 32 No. 4) relentlessly forward, building the piece to a massive climax and then perfectly capturing the quiet conclusion. After that comes the glowingly beautiful prelude in G, here as prettily sung as it ever has been. The F-major prelude sounds a little like Debussy, intriguingly. My favorite prelude of all, the short allegro in G sharp minor, gets a performance in which the pianist’s extraordinarily fast fingers are also capable of unusual subtlety. When the cycle concludes, you almost look forward to hearing the applause Geniušas has earned.

Sound quality is very good for a live performance. I simply can’t imagine the virtuosity, memory and artistry required to record this enormous cycle of challenging music in a single live take. The booklet claims that this was recorded live in one night but I challenge you to find one misplayed note or one moment lacking in absolute confidence.

All this should not surprise the serious piano nerd/snob, since Lukas Geniušas is grandson of the extraordinary Vera Gornostaeva, who was his first piano teacher. If you’ve heard of Gornostaeva, it’s because one of her re-issues was my 2014 Recording of the Year, or perhaps because as a professor she taught young pianists named Ivo Pogorelich, Alexander Paley, Vassily Primakov and Sergei Babayan. She would be proud.

Brian Reinhart

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