ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
Rachmaninov - Preludes

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SERGEI RACHMANINOV - Preludes from Opp. 3, 23 and 32 - Variations on a Theme by Corelli, Op. 42 - Vassily Primakov (Piano) - 090404934827 - Released: May 2011 - Bridge 9348

One of the many distinctive characteristics and attributes that define pianist Vassily Primakov is his ability to effortlessly shape and mold each musical phrase, and infuse the music with an internal energy and momentum that helps define the music's narrative. Also, he has an acute sense of proportion in regards to dynamics, wherein at any moment the contrasts in volume are always perfectly judged based on what came before and what comes after that moment. The extra level of clarity this brings to the music is of great importance.

Let's take for example the very famous Prelude in C-sharp minor, Op. 3, No. 2 which closes this CD. Too many pianists play those three ominous opening notes so loudly, that from then on they have nowhere else to go but louder, which makes the whole piece sound ponderous and laborious. Primakov on the other hand gives everything its due weight, but also allows the inner harmonies of those many massive chords to come through. The beautiful Elégie in E-flat minor, Op. 3, No. 1, very much in the style of early Scriabin, displays Rachmaninov's deeper expressive side and is performed here with insight and mastery. Rachmaninov could not have picked a better theme for his Variations on a Theme of Corelli. The tune is from Corelli's Violin Sonata Op. 5 No. 1, and is based on the famous Renaissance dance 'La Folia', a tune just fertile with possibilities. Its twenty variations display all manner of rhythmic, harmonic and emotive imagination, and again Primakov gets to the core of each one and sheds light on the many different viewpoints within the composer's mind.

Compared to his large scale and epic Piano Concertos, these solo piano works could be considered miniatures in comparison, but only in size. They still contain all of the qualities by which Rachmaninov's music came to be admired by so many. Drama, imagination, romantic idealism, and most of all a probing and inextinguishable spirit. In just a few short years, Vassily Primakov has gone from better to best, from success to success, and this new recording is yet another example of just that.

Jean-Yves Duperron - July 2011