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Despite winning a series of competition firsts early in his career, this Armenian-American pianist has only recently emerged into the international limelight, helped, I suspect, by the fact that he’s Trifonov’s guru. But he shouldn’t have needed that support, because as his army of fans well know, he’s a consummate showman and a strikingly original pianistic voice. Having trained with Pletnev in Moscow, he stands in the Neuhaus tradition.

This album – his debut with Deutsche Grammophon – is his declaration of love for the music of Rachmaninov, which hit him like a coup de foudre when he was 13 and changed the course of his life. He took to heart the composer’s dictum that ‘music is born in the heart and appeals only to the heart’. The pieces brought together here were chosen from several cycles, and were grouped so that one leads into another, creating gentle shifts in mood. ‘What I wanted,’ he says, ‘was to create a cycle of my own.’

He most certainly has: the whole hour slips by as if in a dream, and I don’t have the superlatives to do justice to his display of deeply considered pianism. Familiar pieces are imbued with such magic that they seem new-minted; everything is nuanced with a velvet touch. The bells of the B minor Prélude Op 32/10 never sounded more sweetly sad; the transcriptions by that other keyboard poet, Arcadi Volodos, are ravishing.

MICHAEL CHURCH Read the full review on Agora Classica

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