This disc has two strikes against it. It's a reissue and it's a mash-up of excerpts from various collections of short pieces, which means that the composer's original intentions are violated. But those two strikes hardly matter when the performer hits a home run with every piece. Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter, through the sheer strength of his virtuosity, sensitivity, intensity, and poetry transforms this disparate collection of Rachmaninov's Études-tableaux, Opp. 33 and 39, and his Preludes, Opp. 23 and 32, into a cogent and compelling artistic statement. Though the works are out of order -- the opening three Études-tableaux from Op. 33, for example, are performed first (No. 9, No. 5, and then No. 6) -- Richter lets each one shine individually, and joins them together to make a whole greater than the sum of the parts. The same could be said for all the performances here; both separately and collectively, they are worlds ahead of those by virtually any other pianist who has ever taken on these tremendously difficult and extravagantly expressive pieces. Recorded in vivid digital sound (the Études-tableaux in 1984) and warm stereo sound (the Preludes in 1971), these incandescent performances should be heard by anyone interested in Rachmaninov or great piano playing, unless they can't stand excerpts.
AllMusic Review by James Leonard
|Études-tableaux for piano, Op. 33|
|Études-tableaux for piano, Op. 39|
|Six Preludes from Op. 23|
|Seven Preludes from Op. 32|