Boris Giltburg's 2016 release on Naxos consists of two sets of piano pieces by Sergey Rachmaninov, the Études-tableaux, Op. 39 (1916-1917), and the Moments musicaux, Op. 16 (1896). The Études-tableaux are a cross between technical studies and character pieces, reminiscent of the etudes of Frédéric Chopin, and they present considerable challenges, even to virtuoso pianists. Here, Giltburg displays his remarkable skills, as well as a range of expressions that run from the fiery and turbulent to the atmospheric and melancholy. In the Moments musicaux, Rachmaninov experimented with short forms, such as the nocturne, etude, funeral march, barcarolle, and theme with variations, and these pieces demonstrated his mastery of piano technique, if not yet his full maturity as a composer. Giltburg's playing brings out a variety of colors and textures, and his passionate interpretations accord with Rachmaninov's youthful, ardent style.
When Nobuyuki Tsujii rose from the piano, having completed his performance at the Thirteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, audience members leapt to their feet and jurors were moved to tears by his passionate interpretation of Chopin s Piano Concerto No.1. Already known in his home country for his refined and effortless playing, his spell-binding performances brought Mr. Tsujii to the attention of hundreds of thousands of new fans throughout the world, while raising his status in Japan to superstar. Gold medalist , Nobu is heard here in a captivating all-Chopin programme of his competition performances.
Both sets of Chopin's etudes can be as fiendishly difficult for the performer as they are mesmerizing for the listener, yet Maurizio Pollini makes them sound as if they pose no problems whatsoever for him in this 1972 recording. Every one of the etudes is played with easy precision, energy, and an entirely enjoyable musicality that demonstrates why Chopin's etudes are no mere exercises and are as suited to the recital hall as to the practice room. The Op. 25 No. 5 Etude in E minor has some tricky finger acrobatics in it, but Pollini brings out a singing melody all the same in the middle section, while adding a bit of dancing animation to the outer sections…
Berezovsky is a sadly under-rated player, even though he won the Tchakovsky Competition in 1990. His natural talent is given full vent in these Etudes. One must remember that these were studies written by Chopin, each one exploring a singular technical idea - the 'Revolutionary' a test of left-hand power and flexibility, Op.10 No.1 a study in right-hand stretches, etc. Thus in each piece, Berezovsky utilises a different aspect of his phenomenal technique and gives a demonstration of how they should be played. In the CD booklet, one critic accurately observes that Berezovsky 'knows there is plenty of time ahead of him'; and rightly so! In a musical world today where everyone thinks they need to flex their muscle in order to gain attention, Berezovsky carries on at his own pace, regardless. There is no need to play everything at breakneck speed as does Argerich where the tendency is to sink into a show of bad taste and pointless pyrotechnics.
Études are primarily intended as exercises to train musicians in specific techniques, but since the Romantic era they have become associated with other miniature forms, such as the prelude and the intermezzo, and frequently regarded as evocative character pieces or tonal pictures. Garrick Ohlsson's album of piano études by Claude Debussy, Sergey Prokofiev, and Béla Bartók offers a brief survey of the genre in modern practice, and demonstrates the blending of pedagogy and poetry in these works. Ohlsson has become internationally known as an exquisite interpreter of the music of Frédéric Chopin, and much of the subtlety and atmosphere found in his previous recordings is present here. Ohlsson's finesse and humor are perhaps most evident in Debussy's Études, L. 143, which have a lighter character than Prokofiev's Études, Op. 2, which tend toward the sardonic side, and Bartók's Études, Op. 18, which are intensely virtuosic and mysterious. Hyperion's recording captures the nuances of Ohlsson's playing, and the piano is close enough to hear every detail, while the acoustics lend it a pleasant natural aura.