Rachmaninov aficionados take note, as this disc contains two world premieres: a coruscating Fugue in D minor for solo piano and a blazing Suite for Orchestra in D minor in a version for solo piano. Both works had been lost for more than a century before this recording was made, and while they are youthful works dating from the composer's 18th year, they are still extremely impressive and wholly characteristic works. Also, the recording was made in Rachmaninov's Swiss home on his own Steinway piano. While the recording itself is a tad distant, it is also very detailed and atmospheric. Plus the piano has a combination of clarity and warmth that works brilliantly with the composer's music.
The performances by young Russian virtuoso Denis Matsuev are superlative. He had made some successful recordings before this one -- his performance of Tchaikovsky's The Seasons was masterful -- and some less than successful recordings -- his performance of Stravinsky's Three Movements from Petroushka was dreadfully miscast. But he's found a home in Rachmaninov. From the monstrously difficult Allegro agitato that opens the Sonata in B flat major, Op. 36, through the cataclysmically difficult D major Étude that closes the Études-tableaux, Op. 39, Matsuev can do everything asked of him -- and make great music of it. Perhaps more importantly, he can make great music of the quieter moments here -- listen to how he molds the first of two A minor Études, Op. 39. Most importantly, he makes a persuasive case for the two unknown works, which will be the main draw for this recording.