Yevgeny Sudbin / Lan Shui / Singapore Symphony Orchestra

Rachmaninov: Symphony No. 1; Piano Concerto No. 1

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Composing in large forms did not come easily to Sergey Rachmaninov, and the difficulties he faced with his Piano Concerto No. 1 in F sharp minor and his Symphony No. 1 in D minor caused him considerable doubt and depression. Today these works are recognized as highly original compositions, and while they are not as enormously popular as the Second and Third piano concertos and the Second Symphony, they are still valued as youthful masterpieces. These 2012 performances by Lan Shui and the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, with pianist Yevgeny Sudbin as soloist in the concerto, are lively and vigorous renditions, and if there are any doubts about the quality of Rachmaninov's music, these musicians certainly bring out the best in both works. The Piano Concerto has a tremendous sense of drama, and from the outset, Sudbin plays the solo part with mercurial shifts of expression and a fluid virtuosity that is captivating. The accompaniment is lush and warm, and the orchestra has an enveloping presence that sets off the glittering piano writing to superb effect. The First Symphony is a brooding work that shows the strong influence of Tchaikovsky, and even though it isn't as dazzling as the Piano Concerto, it offers insights into Rachmaninov's thinking beyond the keyboard and growing feeling for orchestral colors and combinations. These super audio recordings were made at the Esplanade Concert Hall in Singapore, and the reproduction is vivid and spacious, with credible presence and natural luster.

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