While Sergey Rachmaninov is justly celebrated for his piano concertos and symphonies, his sets of variations shouldn't be overlooked, for they are among his most inventive and satisfying works. Russian pianist Danil Trifonov plays the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, the Variations on a Theme of Chopin, and the Variations on a Theme of Corelli on this 2015 Deutsche Grammophon release, and he offers his own special tribute to the composer in his solo piano suite, Rachmaniana. For the Rhapsody, Trifonov is joined by Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra, an ensemble that counts historic performances with Rachmaninov as part of its heritage, and plays with its characteristic lush sound and passionate expression…
A majority of well-known composers have written at least a few chamber compositions in their entire lifetime. The most famous would have to be Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, and probably Prokofiev. Some, including Respighi and Vaughan Williams, are overlooked or even rejected in today's society. Whether it's because of lack of originality or excessive complexities, these sorts of compositions are always left in the dark. Take Rachmaninov's Cello Sonata, for instance. This 35-minute work doesn't receive the complete recognition it deserves. It's overshadowed by the composer's piano concertos and symphonies, all of which are respectfully first-rate works in their own right.
Although Sergei Rachmaninov considered himself first and foremost a composer, the last two decades of his life found him knee-deep in his “second career” as a touring concert pianist and recording artist. In 1992, RCA Gold Seal brought out all of Rachmaninov’s recorded performances in a 10-disc set, now reprinted as a space-saving budget box.
There are many factors that contribute to a great and worthwhile album; the actual performance (in this case by orchestra and soloist) is obviously important, but also significant is recorded sound quality, programming, interesting and informative liner notes, and (although less important) nice packaging doesn't hurt, either. This CD of Rachmaninov's First and Fourth piano concertos and the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini gives listeners all of these things. The liner notes provide an exceptionally useful timeline highlighting the chronology of two concertos, showing where revisions were made and when the final version emerged relative to the initial sketches. The Orchestre Philharmonique de l'Oural does a superb job of providing a lush and sensual backdrop for all three works heard here.
Playing together for the first time for Hyperion, Hough and Isserlis are stunningly matched in this large-scale passionate romantic programme. The sonatas stand at the centre of the meaty repertoire established by Brahms—whose two cello sonatas Steven Isserlis has recorded for us in an award-winning disc accompanied by Peter Evans (CDA66159)—and characterised by grand sweeping gestures, lush melody, and heartfelt emotions that sear from pathos to frenzy. The Franck is, of course, an alternative version the composer wished for his violin sonata, a transition that many feel to be the work's happiest incarnation.
"…Wang's impeccable technique and tonal beauty certainly aid in pouring this old wine into a new bottle . . . the spins and gyrations become quite beguiling, while Abbado injects his own potent impetus into the mix. A disarming lovely set of Rachmaninov works, beautifully played and gorgeously recorded courtesy of engineer Stephan Flock." ~Audiophile Audition