With this disc, Vladimir Ashkenazy, celebrated for his readings of Rachmaninoff and Chopin, and his son, Vovka, take on music by Debussy and Ravel for two pianos, and the results, utterly unlike virtually anything Ashkenazy père has ever recorded before, make it a real winner. From the electric excitement of the opening En blanc et noir, through the hazy mysteries of Jeux, and the luminous colors of the Rapsodie espagnole, to the inexorable hysteria of La Valse, Ashkenazy père and fils turn in performances that match the music for poise, drive, and technical brilliance. Some might find their sonorities a bit hard-edged at points – should the opening of En blanc et noir and the close of La Valse really be hit so strongly? – but the results are so consistently thrilling that most listeners are likely to be swept away. Recorded in close but clear and vivid digital sound, this disc may not be for every Debussy and Ravel fan, but it should certainly appeal to fans of Ashkenazy.
Andras Schiff and Peter Serkin, internationally celebrated and multi-award winning classical soloists, make their New Series debuts with Music for Two Pianos. Regarded as 2 of the greatest pianists of our time, Schiff and Serkin are very seldom heard - as they are here - as piano duo. With this recording, ECM begins a long-term relationship with Andras Schiff, a musician described by Gramophone magazine as "a unique poetic voice among the pianists".
Martha Argerich’s long career has taken in many outstanding solo performances, but she has often professed to feeling ‘lonely’ on stage. This CD showcases the area in which she feels truly at home: her extensive and fruitful collaborations with other first-class musicians. Among the many younger pianists she has taken under her wing at her academy in Lugano are Lilya Zilberstein, who rose to fame in the 1990s and whose sparkling playing is also featured on this disc, as well as Nelson Goerner, whose collaboration with Argerich in Rachmaninov’s nostalgic Symphonic Dances is released here for the first time.
Born in Caracas, Reynaldo Hahn moved with his family to Paris at the age of three. There he studied at the Conservatoire under Massenet and made a particular impression with his songs, which he sang himself, to his own piano accompaniment. His interest in the theatre led to his appointment in 1945 as director of the Paris Opéra. Chamber music by Hahn includes the works for two pianos recorder here, two string quartets and a piano quintet that stands comparison with Fauré.
That Arensky is one of the most influential figures in the promotion of two-piano music cannot be doubted. In addition to his four Suites for two pianos he also composed two sets of pieces for piano duet, later arranging one of them, his Children’s Suite of eight canons, Op 65, also for two pianos. Like all the best examples of two-piano music, Arensky’s Suites make no compromises on the technical demands made of the performers, and balancing Arensky’s gossamer-like embellishments and elaborations can sometimes seem an almost impossible task in itself.