Scott Davie

Mussorgsky: Pictures from an Exhibition; Rachmaninoff: First Piano Sonata; Fragments; Etc.,

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You can tell you've got an academician on your hands when a significant portion of an album's liner notes is devoted to the proper transliterated spelling of Rachmaninoff (Rachmaninoff vs. Rachmaninov) and the better translation of Pictures "from" an Exhibition (rather than the more common Pictures "at" an Exhibition). Is this a bad thing? Not at all. In fact, in the case of Australian pianist Scott Davie, it can produce a uniquely insightful album. Davie is as much a recognized Rachmaninoff scholar as he is a concert pianist. What this means for listeners is a performer who has taken the time to investigate primary sources and original manuscripts to truly get to know one of Rachmaninoff's most demanding works: the First Sonata. This in no way translates to a dry, purely academic performance. Quite the contrary. Like Rachmaninoff himself, Davie is an impassioned performer who puts technical accuracy on level pegging with the emotional content of the music. His playing is full of grand, sweeping gestures, intricate middle voice work, and gentle tenderness that contrasts with savage power. What's a little disappointing is that this same verve seems lacking in the album's title piece: Mussorgsky's Pictures from an Exhibition. Here, Davie's playing seems unduly reserved, bland, and at times even metronomic. No matter; Davie's unique understanding of the Rachmaninoff sonata and the four short pieces also included on the album more than makes up for it. As for the specially designed Overs Piano on which he plays, which is purported to improve the tone of the treble register, repeated notes in the right hand tend to come out run together.

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