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Sony’s lavish presentation, including many previously unpublished photographs of Rachmaninov, remembers the composer’s relatively happy exile in Switzerland. Behzod Abduraimov is the ultra-commanding soloist in the Rhapsody, where everything is shipshape and Bristol (or Moscow) fashion; there is a comfortable sense that nothing can possibly go wrong. He is ideally partnered in a work alive with tricky ensemble challenges. Yet if there are few more immaculate performances, there are other more individual readings on record, notably from Ashkenazy, Moiseiwitsch and, of course, Rachmaninov himself. Abduraimov is remote in Variation 17 and is less than memorable in the soaring love song of Variation 18.

The Lucerne Symphony’s performance of the Third Symphony is more urgently committed, proclaiming Rachmaninov’s identity in every bar. But Abduraimov has the last word with the early ‘Lullaby’. On his own, he exhibits a caressing magic and warmth missing in the Rhapsody. Sony’s sound is opulent and superb.

BRYCE MORRISON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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