The Prague Philharmonic choir join over a dozen others who have recorded Rachmaninov’s All-Night Vigil, a work once thought the special property of the Russian choirs who are, of course, prominent in the lists. The Czechs sing it without a cantor, and more as a concert work than some of the others do. Though they take the famous scale in the Nunc dimittis, descending to a profound B flat, in their stride, they are not as sonorous as some others, and their particular contribution is to sing the music lightly and flexibly, with a lively response to the words. They have excellent sopranos, safe in intonation when attacking the exposed high entries in thirds which are a feature of the music, and a good tenor for the three numbers that involve him as a soloist. The Magnificat, with all its tempo changes and shifts of register, is expressively done, as are the light rhythms of ‘Blessed art Thou, O Lord’.
Boris Giltburg's 2016 release on Naxos consists of two sets of piano pieces by Sergey Rachmaninov, the Études-tableaux, Op. 39 (1916-1917), and the Moments musicaux, Op. 16 (1896). The Études-tableaux are a cross between technical studies and character pieces, reminiscent of the etudes of Frédéric Chopin, and they present considerable challenges, even to virtuoso pianists. Here, Giltburg displays his remarkable skills, as well as a range of expressions that run from the fiery and turbulent to the atmospheric and melancholy. In the Moments musicaux, Rachmaninov experimented with short forms, such as the nocturne, etude, funeral march, barcarolle, and theme with variations, and these pieces demonstrated his mastery of piano technique, if not yet his full maturity as a composer. Giltburg's playing brings out a variety of colors and textures, and his passionate interpretations accord with Rachmaninov's youthful, ardent style.
Pianists Martha Argerich and Nelson Freire are stupendous virtuosos, and there's nothing in this recording of their 2009 Salzburg recital of staggeringly difficult works they cannot play. They know each other so well as old duo piano partners that their playing is stunning in its unity, but their distinctive individuality also comes across. What's most impressive about this recital is how completely Argerich and Freire have made this music their own. Brahms' Haydn Variations sound freer and fresher, more playful, and more profound than ever. Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances are thrillingly rhapsodic, rapturous, and dramatic. Schubert's Grand Rondeau is more lyrical, intimate, and graceful than usual, and Ravel's La Valse more ecstatic and apocalyptically over-the-top frightening than in any comparable recordings, including Argerich's own earlier releases. Captured in wonderfully clear yet wholly present digital sound, the performances on this disc will be compulsory listening for anyone who loves music, any music.
This release - set for March 2017 - is a piece of history: it is a combination of unreleased and historic audio and visuals. It allows a unique view of the enigmatic maestro Grigory Sokolov’s life because it offers an opportunity to hear authentic performances from over ten and even twenty years ago accompanied by a brand-new film by Nadia Zhdanova.
This is a wondrous disc. Yevgeny Sudbin has not been alone in championing the piano music of Nikolay Medtner: in recent times Marc-André Hamelin, Steven Osborne and Hamish Milne have all brought their special insights into a composer who can perhaps on occasion seem problematic and somehow remote. Sudbin, however, seems to have an exceptional affinity with Medtner’s language. He brings both his heart and his head into play when performing these pieces. His head tackles and illuminates textures and harmonies that might seem opaque and knotty on a first study of the scores; his heart is then harnessed to convey the extraordinary sensibility, passion and thoroughly individual cast of melody that courses through the music. As usual with Sudbin’s series of BIS discs, he also writes his own booklet-notes in a lucid way that testifies both to his enthusiasm and to his understanding.