|Artis||Ashish Xiangyi Kumar|
|Audio Summary||MP3, 48 kHz|
Rachmaninoff's second set of Etudes-Tableaux is, if anything, even fuller, more finely textured, and darker than the first. If you have not heard of Hayroudinoff (whose critically celebrated recordings are mostly familiar to Rachmaninoff/Tchaikovsky specialists), then you must listen to this, for his playing is spectacular. Lugansky is superb, as always, but Hayroudinoff brings a glorious warmth and vigour to his playing. Where Lugansky often veils the music with impressionistic filigree (a perfectly legitimate approach, as these are study-pictures, after all), Hayroudinoff often (but nowhere near always) opts for clarity and a rhythmic consistency that is extremely compelling. And it goes nearly without saying that his command of timbre and characterisation is excellent. As a treat, I've also uploaded three oldish performances from the Soviet-Russian titan Vladimir Sofronitsky, which really need no description.
A brief description of each Etude-Tableaux follows. Rachmaninoff probably never meant for the specific images underlying each Etude-Tableaux to be publicly known, but he did disclose a few of these to Resphigi in his letters (Resphigi was orchestrating some of the Etudes-Tableaux, and Rachmaninoff thought he could help out), and I mention the relevant image in the description where possible.
No.1 -- A swirling, almost unhinged thing that's vibrating in an odd near-constant climax.
No.2 -- "The Sea and the Seagulls". An impressionist masterpiece, with the LH figurations mimicking the lapping of waves on a shore. If you're an observant listener you'll pick up the Dies Irae running right through this piece.
No.3 -- An incredibly complex Etude-Tableaux, tone-wise: while it starts off sounding angry and frenetic, there are moments of violent sublimity scattered through the piece.
No.4 -- A charming cross between a hopak and gavotte, with lots of harmonic colour.
No.5 -- Possibly the dramatic peak of both the Op.33 and Op.39 sets, in turns passionate, tumultuous, despairing, and somber. The technical difficulties, huge as they are, are matched here by the musical rewards. If you thou
ght Horowitz was the master of this piece listen to Sofronitsky's recording. Richter said a lovely thing about this piece: “Although I love listening to it I avoid playing such music as it makes me feel completely naked emotionally. But if you decide to perform it, be good enough to undress”.
No.6 -- "Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf". A brilliant study in jagged contrasts. Again, you must listen to Sofronitsky playing this.
No.7 -- If No.5 is the dramatic peak of the Etudes-Tableaux, this might be the emotional nucleus of the sets: a march transforms into a cacophonous blaze of the composer's much-loved bells.
No.8 -- A lyrical meditation on double notes, featuring some very beautiful counterpoint. Rachmaninoff quotes from Scriabin's 5th Sonata near the end.
No.9 -- A march, but then calling this a march does it a serious disservice. The counterpoint is ingenious, the harmonies striking and lush, the range of colors employed breathtaking. Can't imagine a more perfect way to end this set.
No.1 -- 00:00
No.2 -- 03:03
No.3 -- 10:04
No.4 -- 12:37 [Outside of Prokofiev, yet to encounter a more dramatic gavotte than this.]
No.5 -- 16:15
No.6 -- 21:31
No.7 -- 24:16 [L. handles the climax unbelievably well: 30:18 - 31:03]
No.8 -- 31:58
No.9 -- 35:13 [The build-up beginning from 37:49 is glorious]
No.1 -- 38:53
No.2 -- 42:18
No.3 -- 48:45 [H. makes this piece sound deeply melodic, something which I thought was impossible]
No.4 -- 51:43
No.5 -- 55:32 [I love how H.deliberately understates the opening a little, before unleashing that massive recapitulation at 58:15]
No.6 -- 01:00:18 [Note H.'s accents in the LH]
No.7 -- 01:03:08
No.8 -- 01:09:45 [A nice contrast to the dreamy vapour of Lugansky's rendition.]
No.9 -- 01:13:05 [A must-listen: all of H.'s pianistic strengths are on display here.]
No.4 -- 01:17:05 [R. skips the second repeat]
No.5 -- 01:19:33 [Listen do this. Seriously: if you listen to no other recording of no other Etude-Tableaux, you should listen to this.]
No.6 -- 01:24:12 [Probably still the most exciting rendition I've come across.]