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Following her early recording of a selection of Études-Tableaux and a more recent complete Piano Concertos and the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Lise de la Salle continues with Rachmaninov’s Piano Trios. Time was when the French affected to despise Rachmaninov, seeing him as a salon figure of excessive emotionalism in contrast to their much vaunted virtues of clarity and taste. Today such an attitude, tinged with snobbery, has altered dramatically and Rachmaninov is in the repertoires of many French musicians – a necessary change of heart and mind.

The Trio Elégiaque No 2 in D minor is a sizeable alternative to the earlier and slighter work in G minor (composed when Rachmaninov, fresh from his studies at the Moscow Conservatoire, was a mere 19 years old). Written in memory of Tchaikovsky, an incomparable friend during Rachmaninov’s ‘first faltering steps into the world of music’, its composer felt ‘tormented and sick at heart’, his violent mood-swings captured with more than a touch of desperation in his Op 9. Not surprisingly the Trio is dominated by the piano.

If Liszt objected to a similar dominance in César Franck’s fiercely dramatic and autobiographical Piano Quintet, considering it to be beyond the scale of true chamber music, he would surely have taken similar issue with the Rachmaninov’s Trios. Alan Kogosowski’s arrangement of the Second Trio as a ‘Fifth Piano Concerto’ is hardly surprising; nor is Lise de la Salle’s no-holds-barred eloquence as she and her fine colleagues revel in this music’s storming rhetoric and yearning intensity. This follow-up is as enterprising as it is surprising, and the Philharmonia recording is exceptionally vivid and immediate.

BRYCE MORRISON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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