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Rachmaninov, Prokofiev etc

Jeremy Filsell, Alessio Bax, Vassily Primakov and Anna Vinnitskaya

Signum Classics SIGCD 230 & 264
Bridge 9348
and Ambroisie AM 177

"The surfeit of Rachmaninov's piano music in the recording catalogue..." is how Jeremy Filsell begins his pitch for your money!

Both these pianists, established virtuoso and relative newcomer, include the shorter, revised version of Rachmaninov's 2nd piano sonata, and both give fine, expansive accounts of it, Vinnitskaya slightly quicker, though you don't feel it.

Differences in presentation and couplings make any comparison invidious; both are admirable CDs.

Filsell gets my attention before I hear a note with his very personal Artist's Note; really, all soloists ought to write their own notes, instead of relying on the musicologists?

Filsell is frankly autobiographical, beginning about his grandfather's music library with "an expensive-looking hard-bound edition which provoked a greater fascination for Rachmaninov above other music" for the boy pianist to be, who struggled with the pieces "even before he could reach the piano's keys and the pedals simultaneously".

Filsell precedes the sonata with a selection of favourites from the Cinq Morceaux, the Elegie, the Preludes and Song Transcriptions (one of them elaborated by Francis Pott). Jeremy Filsell is perhaps even better known as a great organ virtuoso (q.v. Pott's Christus Passion Symphony).

From the same firm, Alessio Bax's disc is intelligent and enchanting.

First encountered on video in Barenboim's Beethoven masterclasses, Bax seeks to emulate Rachmaninov's "beautiful tone" and is helped greatly by the recording at Wyastone (Mike Hatch) in four leisurely days during June 2010.

He divides his selection into the Op 23 Preludes complete, plus Early Works and Transciptions, compiling a disc with little overlap with the others.

These three, taken together, help to refute the notion that more Rachmaninov recordings are superfluous.

Anna Vinnitskaya* follows Rachmaninov (her account is the more clearly recorded than Filsell's) with a fascinatingly varied and demanding programme of Gubaidulina, Medtner and and concludes with an electrifying account of Prokofiev's huge "Wartime sonata", No 7.

I had this for review after having been bowled over by her newer disc of Ravel and Prokofiev concertos - 5 stars- Best Prokofiev 2nd ever?

So, dig deep in your pockets and buy them both

Peter Grahame Woolf

Prokofiev & Ravel: Piano Concertos

Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 16
Ravel: Piano Concerto in G major

Anna Vinnitskaya (piano)/ Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin/Gilbert Varga

Naïve V5238


This is a fabulous disc from a young pianist who is joining the "greats" of yesteryear. The Prokofiev 2nd is one of the most brilliant and demanding in the repertoire, less often played than several of the others.

And for Ravel she will be compared with iconic interpretations such as those of Michelangeli, but she will not be found wanting and has the advantage of fine modern digital recording.

Another Rachmaninoff pianist !

Preludes, Elegie & Corelli Variations

Vassily Primakov

Bridge 9348

Minimally overlapping with Filsell's choices (reviewed above) the youthful Primakov, already a veteran of the recording studio, centres his disc on an intensively expressive account of the great, late Variations, a work which has increasingly become valued as one of the composer's masterworks.

Both are well worth acquiring, as indeed are al those reviewed on this page; an embarrassment of riches!

Primakov has the advantage over Filsell of more sophisticated modern recording, completed during three days in January 2011 and quickly released.

He is a pianist of exceptional sensitivity and a master of tone and nuance.

Yet another very fine Rachmaninov(off) recital to add to your collections.

Peter Grahame Woolf

* "The girl, after all, has just turned 14 - - Anna Vinnitskaya is almost certainly one of the potentially great pianists of tomorrow. Tomorrow? Well, maybe that's a little soon. But she is already, on the stream of evidence in her recital yesterdayl, frighteningly close to being the complete musician... She plays with a maturity that would have an experienced listener place her at least a decade beyond her years. ... She has a physical power beyond her years – capable of delivering the meatiest Rachmaninov with a wallop – and immense lyrical strenghts, allied with a beautifully smooth, virtuosic finger technique and a awesome command of dynamic contrasts. But if there were elements that marked out her near-genious – and I do not exaggerate – they were evident in Prokofiev - - the ease and maturity of a master pianist." Glasgow Herald, 11/12/97

Performance ★★★★★ Recording ★★★★★
- - vividly recorded programme juxtaposes late-Romantic bravura (Rachmaninov and Medtner) with the more acerbic language of Prokofiev’s Seventh Sonata and Gubaidulina’s abrasive Chaconne - - she has the measure of each work, demonstrating not only formidable technical control but also a truly remarkable range of tonal colouring - - an extremely compelling account of Prokofiev’s Seventh Sonata with a terrifyingly relentless Finale.
BBC Music Magazine May 2010, 05/01/10