Sandro Russo

Rachmaninov: Solo Piano Works

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The fine Steinway & Sons label has attempted, in various ways, to re-create the pianistic world of a century ago, in which a recital of music by Rachmaninov would have been a common entry indeed. In his adopted United States, the recital might have been by the composer/pianist himself. Famous for his powerful hands, he is associated with sounds that could make the walls ring in a good-sized symphony hall, but the fact is that for an ordinary piano recital, which might often have taken place in a smaller space, more intimate approaches are reasonable. That's what you get in this enjoyable album by Sandro Russo. Russo chooses works that generally respond well to his elegant, rather refined treatment, starting off with the comparatively rare Piano Sonata No. 1 in D minor, Op. 28, with its general inspiration by Goethe's Faust and its inward atmosphere. Russo goes on with works that connect with each other in more or less subtle ways that he explains a short booklet note. Some of them are arrangements by Earl Wild of non-piano works (sample one of these for the flavor of the whole), and these make a lovely interlude before the final flourish. In general, Russo seems more concerned with shades than with pianistic fireworks, and he's one of a group of young pianists who have been finding these in Rachmaninov, and finding, in general, that he was more aware of Impressionist developments than he has been given credit for. You may wish for a bit more blood and thunder in the final Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42, but here too Russo's approach is original. Steinway & Sons departs from its usual concert venues for a studio recording here, and the results are superb. A recommended new take on Rachmaninov.

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