Wolfram Schmitt-Leonardy

Rachmaninoff/Warenberg: Piano Concerto "No. 5"

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As the quotation marks in the title acknowledge, this is Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto "No. 5," or, to be more precise, Rachmaninov's Second Symphony reimagined by composer Alexander Warenberg as a piano concerto. In practice, this means the score has been drastically edited. Structurally, the work is now in three movements. The opening movement is more or less intact except for the absence of the exposition repeat. The Scherzo is eliminated, although its Trio is transplanted into the center of the central Adagio. And its finale eliminates the second of its three themes as well as about a third of its length.

But, of course, the biggest change is the addition of a piano. The instrument doesn't make its entrance until after the opening movement's long Largo introduction, but after that, the piano is rarely gone from the scene. Amazingly enough, it sounds absolutely appropriate. Warenberg has done a surprisingly effective job of imitating Rachmaninov's distinctive "double octaves plus 10-note chords" style of piano writing, and even in the self-composed cadenzas, the music sounds uncannily like Rachmaninov's. Performed with panache and assurance by pianist Wolfram Schmitt-Leonardy accompanied by the Janácek Philharmonic under Theodore Kuchar, Warenberg's Rachmaninov Fifth is hardly Rachmaninov's Fifth, but it is a superb compositional fantasy on a much beloved work that the composer's fans will have to hear it at least once. Brilliant's sound is deep and colorful, but a bit thin in the upper registers.

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