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Alfonso Soldano is a relatively unknown quantity outside his native Italy. Lavishly praised by Adam Harasiewicz and Aldo Ciccolini, he is a young pianist audaciously and indelibly in love with ‘Romantic Agony’ – that deep-dyed violence and melancholy at the heart of Russian Romanticism. In his curtain-raiser, Rachmaninov’s A minor Étude-Tableau Op 39/2, Soldano’s intense rubato and tremulous phrasing convey all of the music’s baleful poetry. No opportunity for drama and rhetorical declaration escapes him.

Even when placed beside Lazar Berman’s legendary recording of the Moments Musicaux, Soldano’s daring and lack of compromise, his indifference to conventional procedure, are mesmeric. He gives us the revised version of No 2 (a clarification of its first, over-ornate form), and in No 4 his engulfing power and fury are the reverse of, say, Moiseiwitsch’s cool-headed, feline magic. In No 6, that massive carillon of Moscow bells, Soldano unleashes a storm of bravura while in the First Sonata (a welcome change from the over- played and too often badly played Second Sonata) he is again inimitable, even when set beside Alexandre Kantorow’s sumptuous and richly expansive account for BIS. Whether in the bittersweet central Lento or in the finale’s churning momentum, Soldano tells you that, even if flawed, the First Sonata is a monumental masterpiece.

This is Rachmaninov ‘through a glass darkly’, leaving you awed and shaken by such an eloquent and anguished interpreter.

BRYCE MORRISON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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