RACHMANINOFF: Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30. Rhapsody
on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 45.
"BOLIVIAN BAROQUE" Volume III
"THREE PORTRAITS WITH SHADOW"
This new Rachmaninoff SACD has much potential, but unfortunately disappoints primarily because of the audio. Recorded February 15-20, 2009 in the Mariinsky Theatre Concert Hall, the producer was James Mallinson, a respected master in audio. Mallinson and his crew also produced two previous Gergiev/Mariinsky recordings, two Shostakovich symphonies (REVIEW) and the same composer's opera The Nose (REVIEW). Both of those recordings were spectacular sonically, but that is not the case on this Rachmaninoff issue. This sounds as if it were recorded in an overly resonant hall, with murky, undefined bass, and muffled piano sound as well. The solo instrument's upper register has a somewhat tinny sound. This is unfortunate as Matsuev is a superb pianist, Gergiev a master of this repertory. If you are following Matsuev's career you'll wish to investigate this in spite of substandard sound; otherwise get existing recordings by Volodos, Pletnev, Cliburn, Wild or Thibaudet—or wait until Avie releases their new recording with Simon Trpceski.
About five years ago, this site mentioned a terrific SACD called Bolivian Baroque performed by Florilegium directed by Ashley Solomon (REVIEW). Now we have Volume III in the series, another one-hour program of music from the Missions and La Plata. Delectable music magnificently performed, and beautifully recorded. Complete texts are provided in Spanish and English.
"Three Portraits With Shadow" offers music by three early "modernist" Spanish composers, including song cycles by Rudolfo Halffter (1900-1987) and his older brother Ernesto Halffter (who was a favorite student of Falla) (1905-1989), and Julián Bautista (1901-1961). A brief four-movement Suite, Op. 1 by R. Halffter opens the disk, and a more lengthy Sinfonia breve by Bautista ends it. In between we have the three song cycles, surely not modern in style, mostly reflective, with rich harmonies. Marinero en Tierra is a setting of poems of Rafael Alberti, orchestrated by José Ramón Encinara; Bautista's Tres ciudades are based on poems by Garcia Lorca. These are beautifully sung by soprano Lola Casariego. Bautista's lively Sinfonia breve concludes the program. The orchestra is excellent as is the record sound, and profuse program notes are provided. Recommended!
R.E.B. (January 2010)