This is an excellent Rachmaninoff programme, taking us from the high romance of the relatively early Suite No. 1 to the composer’s last opus numbered work, the Symphonic Dances. The Suite No. 1 is a very fine work, and this duo plays gorgeously in that sighing third movement Les larmes. The spectacular finale, Pâques rings out spectacularly, the powerful tone of the well paired pianos delivering a remarkable listening experience.
For this Alpha-Classics album of modernist music arranged for two pianos, Alexei Lubimov and Slava Poprugin play four essential works that yield some surprises in their keyboard versions. Three of the pieces are transcriptions of instrumental music, specifically Igor Stravinsky's arrangement of his Concerto in E flat major, "Dumbarton Oaks," John Cage's reduction of Erik Satie's Socrate, and Darius Milhaud's four-hand transcription of Satie's Cinéma (composed as a soundtrack for the short Dadaist film Entr'acte, used in the ballet Relâche), with Stravinsky's Concerto for two pianos solo performed as it was originally written.
How poor the piano literature for four hands would be without Schubert! This musical form is indebted to him for its most significant enrichment — ranging from the popular marches to works of virtually symphonic size. The roots of the genre sprang from different soils. Schubert's musical invention was so prolific that often the two hands of a pianist proved to be insufficient, and thus the performance of complicated counterpoint, the countless subsidiary themes and delicate harmonic details demanded two pianists and four hands, resembling the four parts of a string quartet.
Sonja and Shanti Sungkono hail from Jakarta by way of Germany. The 20th Century Piano Duets Collection is their second release for New Classical Adventure. Most of this repertoire is fairly standard stuff for piano duo. Although Colin McPhee's once obscure Balinese Ceremonial Music is gaining ground in the central literature and Raimo Kangro's much later music probably belongs there, the proof here is in the playing, rather than in the pudding or any other factor one might consider. The Sungkonos' Bartók is especially dynamic and engaging, but the whole disc is bursting with enthusiasm and energy from the wild thrill ride that is Kangro's Klimper Op. 20/4 all the way to their dazzling and urgent realization of Danses Andalouses of Manuel Infante.