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.
Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli's classic recordings of the Ravel G major and Rachmaninov G minor concertos have never been out of the catalog since they first appeared more than 40 years ago. Surface and style are one in this music, and the Italian pianist remains unsurpassed for his icy precision and micro-detailing. He brings pinpointed elan to Rachmaninov's sizzling cross-rhythms in the Fourth Concerto's Allegro Vivace movement, as well as laser-like concentration to the tartly lush Largo. Few have matched Michelangeli's nuance and color in the Ravel concerto, and his seamless dispatch of Ravel's "singing sword" effect in the opening movement belies the notion that you can't bend notes on a piano.
The Dutch cellist Harriet Krijgh and Russian pianist Magda Amara present a program of Rachmaninov pieces that sensitively reflect and capture his genius with this release. Along with well known Rachmaninov repertoire, the CD also includes Sonata for cello and piano op.19 which evolved after a lengthy period of depression and compositional despair catalyzed by the critical failure of his Symphony Nr. 1 and requiring therapeutic treatments to end. Some have said that after emerging from this creative black hole, Rachmaninovs humility and compassion produced works that were richer than was the case previously. This release makes a convincing argument that this was indeed the case.