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Rachmaninov, Stravinsky / Malcolm Wilson, Philip Martin

Rachmaninoff / Stravinsky / Wilson / Martin
Release Date: 11/09/2010 
Label:  Somm   Catalog #: 098  
Composer:  Sergei RachmaninovIgor Stravinsky
Performer:  Malcolm WilsonPhilip Martin
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

The pianism is superb.


RACHMANINOFF Symphonic Dances. STRAVINSKY The Rite of Spring Malcolm Wilson, Philip Martin (pn) SOMM 098 (65:54)

Though both of the works on this recital are best known in their orchestral versions, it was the respective composers themselves who wrote the Read more arrangements heard on the current recording. Upon first listening to the performances here, I missed the orchestral color that is so much a part of these works. Who could imagine the magical, otherworldly bassoon opening of Stravinsky’s ballet on the piano? Malcolm Wilson and Philip Martin, that’s who. And what a marvelous job they do in revealing the details of this ever-enchanting work. They bring with them the refinement and classical grace to handle the minutiae of this masterwork, often illuminating voices that one could only imagine had been there all along. They capture well the excitement of the rhythmic drive, and bring with them color galore, so that one need never miss the orchestral incarnations. This is chamber music-making of the highest caliber. Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances fare equally well. The two players capture the dance character of these pieces to a tee. Though some may want a bit more from the players—for instance, at the appearance of the Dies irae theme in the last of the dances, where the players might be a bit reserved for some—they never bring less than all of their best abilities and good taste to the music. Though I would never want to be without my favorite orchestral recordings of both of these masterworks, the performances here carry all the flair and panache that one could ask for in this music. Recommended without reservations.

FANFARE: Scott Noriega

Rachmaninov conceived the two piano and orchestral versions of his Symphonic Dances simultaneously, so neither is an arrangement of the other. Indeed, both versions work so well that when listening to one version you never miss the other, so complete in itself is the text. This is Rachmaninov’s final work, from a compositional career which was severely curtailed by his life as a travelling virtuoso concert pianist. The strength and power of this work makes one all the more disappointed that because of his necessity to earn a living as a pianist we were robbed of so many other works which could have been written. But whatever one’s frustration, Rachmaninov certainly gives the public a work of some substance, and he goes out in a veritable blaze of glory.

The Symphonic Dances is a great work and it requires pianists of stature, not to mention stamina; Wilson and Martin are well up to the challenge. This is a fine performance but it’s all a bit too polite. There are times, such as the climax of the second movement waltz, or the appearance of the Dies Irae in the final dance, where the music should have a wild abandon. It just doesn’t happen here. Ashkenazy and Previn are much to be preferred here for their performance is rip-roaring, no-holds-barred (Decca 444 8452 6 - a 2 CD set containing all the music for two pianos and a few solos from Ashkenazy for good measure).

Le Sacre is so obviously an orchestral work - it fascinates as much for its orchestration as for its content. It takes great insight and intelligence to make sense of this music on two pianos. Oddly what I find missing from their performance of the Symphonic Dances is exactly what makes this performance of Le Sacre so interesting. With marvellous understatement, or is it British reserve?, Wilson and Martin give a sensible and clear-cut performance, allowing individual voices to be heard, and never going over-the-top or descending into melodrama. It’s rhythmically vital and very exciting.

Whilst the Rachmaninov cannot be recommended as the best performance available, this Le Sacre can, and the disk is worth buying if you want the two works, for they make a good coupling. The sound is excellent and the pianism superb.

-- Bob Briggs, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

Symphonic Dances, Op. 45 by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Malcolm Wilson (Piano), Philip Martin (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1940; USA 
Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Malcolm Wilson (Piano), Philip Martin (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913 

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