This excellent collection comes with a minor caveat, since almost all of these recordings have appeared previously as part of Martha Argerich’s ‘Live at Lugano’ series. Having such a collection of such glorious recordings of Rachmaninov’s multiple-piano/multiple-pianist works together in one place may appeal even if you do have all or some of these desirable Lugano box sets lying around. However, you may want to check the contents before acquiring this set. Argerich has also recorded some of this repertoire elsewhere, for instance in a magnificent recording with Alexandre Rabinovich on Teldec, the Symphonic Dances
and Second Suite
in particular, but I find myself preferring the spontaneity of the live versions in this collection. Further self-competition in this work comes in the form of a Deutsche Grammophon recording in which Martha Argerich is joined by Nicolas Economou (review
), but even with its many qualities this again lacks the excitement, drive and electric synergy of the live version.
Michael Cookson’s comments on this release are a very good summary of the content and qualities of this compilation. The unique ‘heft’ of two pianos and the musical synergy between players is an inspiration throughout, and if you relish Rachmaninov’s way of creating colour and sonority with the piano as well as his harmonic and melodic idiom then this is a place to bathe in a seascape of marvels. The freshly-minted feel to the performances adds a sheen of uniqueness which is hard to beat in any context. The Symphonic Dances
is, as mentioned, a work with which Argerich has been associated before, and her performance here – one of the works which is
a new release – with Nelson Goerner is both dramatic and full of subtleties. You can sense the synergy of the two musicians, echoing each other’s little variations and inflections and relishing rhythmic oneness. The same is true of both Suites
, and if you don’t sit entranced at the Romance
in the Second Suite
or agape at the daring repetitions and Russian clamour of bells in the Pâques
of the First Suite
then alas I fear we may have to part company.
CD 2 is also a source of tremendous pleasures. The 6 Duets
have some of Rachmaninov’s best music, and Argerich’s work with Lilya Zilberstein is terrific, here as it is in the First Suite
. Just listen to that final Slava (Gloria)
, and dry your eyes with the Romance
and Waltz in A
, played by Zilberstein and the Gerzenbergs with magnificent élan. The final Russian Rhapsody
doesn’t have Martha Argerich as a player, but Lilya Zilberstein and Alexander Mogilevsky are however very much worth hearing in their virtuoso clarity and sense of heady Russian movement and style.