The young Russian-Israeli pianist Boris Giltburg is bidding to step in as the inheritor of the long line of passionately Romantic Russian pianism, and from the evidence on this Naxos disc, where he's joined by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under Carlos Miguel Prieto, he just may make it. This is a very fine performance of the Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18, an iconic work ever since it musically defined the 1945 British tearjerker Brief Encounter. Giltburg has the chops to handle the concerto's technical challenges, as great as those in any other work Rachmaninov wrote, and also to get beyond conservatory dryness and put across the emotion of the work, the sense Rachmaninov had of rediscovering a musical wellspring after a long, creatively fallow period. The program was not recorded at a stretch: the Études-tableaux, Op. 33, were recorded several months later, at a different location, but these works contrast fairly strongly with the concerto: they are indeed studies of a sort, and they're among the more modern works in the Rachmaninov oeuvre. There are flashier performances of these, but Giltburg is probing, not trying to be flashy. The two transcriptions at the end bring down the curtain on a satisfying performance of some familiar works.
Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2; Études-tableaux, Op. 33 Review
by James Manheim