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Friday, June 17, 2016

Rachmaninov, Etudes-tableaux, Moments musicaux, Boris Giltburg, Piano

Sergey Rachmaninov (1873-1943) did so much to extend and personalize late-romantic Russian expressionism that one listens and ignores the reality that his style in his later years was firmly anachronistic. Most of his piano solo and all the concerto oeuvre require exceptional virtuosity and poetic interpretive brilliance from the soloist for it all to come through properly--and a really worthwhile performance puts the music in a nearly timeless realm. So it really doesn't matter that Rachmaninov was in the end not completely of his era.

This is very much true of the solo piano blockbusters Etudes-tableaux, Op. 39 (1896) and the Moments musicaux, Op. 16 (1916-17). It is difficult to do the works justice, but we find an ideal exponent in Boris Giltburg, who has recently recorded both in a fine new release (Naxos 8.573469).

Both demand torrential outpourings of melodic-harmonic dynamics, motor-sensory finesse of the highest sort, complete control over the widely contrasting passages, an intelligent and musical use of rubato and a climactic sense of impassioned pianism. There are one might presume many who can make of the music something comprehensible, but very few who can take it to the highest level of exultation, to give it a liquidity of flow, to bring out the widely expansive arcs that the composer envisioned, the shifting moods and colors of each movement.

Boris Giltburg is one of those few. He gives us a tremendously exciting take on both works. He clearly was made for this music. And the music itself in all its profundity and Russo-dash becomes clear to us, with the deeper inner meanings coming forth out of the extraordinary virtuosity.

Giltburg triumphs and thanks to him so does Rachmaninov. For all those who have had their doubts about the brilliance of these works, seek no further. Boris lays it all out for us, gives us a Rachmaninov we ordinarily do not get to hear, not like this. Highly recommended.

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