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This is the second instalment of Artur Pizarro’s survey of Rachmaninov solo piano works. Pizarro opts for a Yamaha, bright of tone and certainly capable of huge power. The recording seems to emphasise the piano’s presence, offering supranatural cleanliness and clarity; and yet for all this, and for all of Pizarro’s mighty technique and wide dynamic range, there is plenty of sensitivity here.

The programming is imaginative: the two sets of Preludes dominate, one set per disc (Op 32 first) and with the Chopin Variations and the Op 3 Morceaux respectively as disc partners. The contrasts that Pizarro can bring about in this music are exemplified perfectly by setting the muscular climax of Op 32/4 (E minor) against its neighbouring Prelude, the stunningly delicate G major. The famous G-sharp minor (No 12) is very beautifully done, emphasising the sheer loveliness of the piano sound itself. Pizarro offers a real alternative in modern sound to the favourites, perhaps, of Ashkenazy or Lympany. The Op 23 set is hardly less impressive (perhaps the B-flat could be more exuberant, but to compensate the G minor is full of life); interesting also how the first Prelude of this set seems to grow organically out of the final ‘Sérénade’ (1940 version) of Op 3.

The Chopin Variations (based on that composer’s C minor Prélude) receive an astonishingly intelligent reading, exemplifying the way Pizarro treats Rachmaninov with a reverence most akin to Beethoven. The result is a polished, poetic edifice. Fascinating.

COLIN CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica


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