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Rachmaninov’s music for two pianos is well established in the repertoire. There have been a good number of recordings down the years and nearly a dozen of this particular threesome are currently available (Argerich with various partners, Ashkenazy and Previn, Shelley and Macnamara, Donohoe and Roscoe, amongst others), plus more still swapping out the Symphonic Dances for the Six Pieces Op 11.

So where do Lortie and Mercier rank in such august contemporary company? Very highly indeed. Their playing boasts superb ensemble and real attack in the many vigorous movements on offer here. Highlights include their incandescent realisation of the rapturous clangour of bells in the finale of the Fantaisie-Tableaux, and the whirling toccata of Suite No 2’s opening Alla marcia.

The music is viscerally exciting, but so often performances don’t quite achieve that. In this case, allied to Chandos’s brilliantly vivid sound, Lortie and Mercier catch the breathtaking sweep of Rachmaninov’s invention, heard tangibly in the opening (and best) movement of the Symphonic Dances. In fact, they make this uneven triptych cohere better than any account I have heard.

They are even better in the softer, lilting sections, such as the waltz-fantasies in the second suite and Symphonic Dances. Here, their collective delicate touch wrings beautifully nuanced, crystal clear colours from their pair of Faziolis.

This disc is superb: buy it!

GUY RICKARDS Read the full review on Agora Classica


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