Ashkenazy Completes Lifelong Project To Record Each Of Rachmaninov’s Works With Piano. Vladimir Ashkenazy, one of the most renowned and revered pianists of our times, crowns his lifelong project to record each of Rachmaninov’s works with piano with the release of Rachmaninov Piano Trios. He performs the composer’s Trio élégiaque No. 1 in G minor and the Trio élégiaque No. 2 in D minor Op. 9.
After sixteen years of exceptional achievement and vast critical acclaim, the career paths of the members of The Florestan Trio are diverging. Sadly, the trio will disband at the end of this year and this disc marks the end of their studio career. For their final recording, the trio performs an all- Shostakovich program comprising the two piano trios and the Seven Romances on Poems of Alexander Blok, for which they are joined by soprano Susan Gritton. Written in 1923, the first trio was an astonishing achievement for a seventeen-year-old student.
The Shostakovich concerto is a good choice, not just as a near contemporary of the Paganini Rhapsody, but as a bridge to the zany world of Lutoslawski. It receives a fluent, well-judged and idiomatic performance with every note in place and some lovely trumpet playing from Raymond Simmons.
Jean Roger-Ducasse was born in Bordeaux on 18 April 1873. He studied at the Paris Conservatoire from 1892 and in 1895, along with Ravel, joined the composition class of Gabriel Faure. In 1902 he won the second Grand Prix de Rome with his cantata Alcyone, with Ravel gaining fourth prize. He had a very active role in musical life in Paris founding the Societe Musicale Independante in 1909 and gaining the position of inspector general for the teaching of singing in Paris schools in 1910.
This set is a remarkable bargain, containing all of Brahms's solo piano music, including such chips from his workshop as cadenzas for other composers' concertos and a series of strictly mechanical piano studies that nobody will want to listen through. No matter. Idil Biret has a firm grasp of Brahms's idiom, and she plays with insight and passion throughout the set. Although she doesn't startle with her virtuosity, she handles the considerable technical demands of the music with great confidence.
All the pieces recorded here come from the 1920s, the period of the Sixth and Seventh Symphonies, and are rarities. Among the finest are the Five Sketches, which come from the very end of the decade and more among Sibelius’s last published works. They may be slight but they are highly individual and hive great finesse. The Village Church from Op. 103 has overtones of the Andante festivo for strings, and The Oarsman seems to ruminate on ideas in the Seventh Symphony. Sibelius’s piano-writing may have evoked little enthusiasm during his lifetime and it is true that, by the exalted standards he set elsewhere, it is limited in resource and scale. But pieces like In Mournful Mood and Landscape from Op. 114 are curiously haunting. So is the rest of the Op. 114 set, and its neglect has been our loss.
This outstanding two-CD survey of the piano music of Christian Wolff comes courtesy of the composer's longtime friend, pianist John Tilbury, with a little help from Matchless label boss (and fellow AMM mainstay) Eddie Prévost and the composer himself. Wolff's studies with John Cage began at the tender of age of 16, and "For Prepared Piano" (1951) is an affectionate nod toward the rhythmic procedures of his teacher, who sent his student off to the hotbed of avant-garde Europe that same year to meet Pierre Boulez.