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This disc is a real surprise. I can hear the eyebrows being raised: ‘What? Rach 2, the Vocalise, a smattering of early pieces for two hands and six?’ Well, yes, because the two hands here belong to Alexandre Tharaud, one of the ablest, most insightful younger pianists who has delighted in previous issues of Bach, Couperin, Scarlatti, Debussy, etc.

The Second Concerto is played with beautiful precision and pace. No over- romanticised dawdling or playing to the gallery here. Tharaud clearly believes in the music’s quality, as does the RLPO, on splendid form under conductor Alexander Vedernikov. Together they bring out the music’s innate drama and beauty without grafting on artificial emotion. It’s a superbly balanced recording, too, the piano placed nicely (but not unnaturally) forward; and just listen to the wonderful clarinet solo at the start of the Adagio sostenuto. The Finale is an utter delight, a marvellous fusion of art and entertainment. This is the finest modern rendition I have heard since Hough’s live Dallas performance with Litton (Hyperion 67501/2).

The five Morceaux de fantaisie Op 3 (1892) are an imaginative set transfigured by the hugely popular Prelude in C-sharp minor. Tharaud integrates it within its proper surrounding in a flawless account. The other fillers are on a slightly lesser plane, the famous Vocalise (1915) not quite on the same level as its most famous renditions (Moffo, for example). The two six-hand pieces from 1891-2 were written for three Russian sisters to play together and are slight, making a rather downbeat conclusion – a waste of the three eminent pianist Alexanders.

GUY RICKARDS Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Piano International, 2017 - ©Rhinegold Publishing