24 Préludes

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Written over a period of 18 years, Rachmaninov’s sets of Préludes are a mirror and a record of his compositional development. With so rich a variety of character, colour, texture and mood, no two préludes are fully alike, and differentiation of tempo and register ensures that each prélude’s character is clearly defined. The first eleven pieces were conceived by Rachmaninov as a single cycle, and their full-hearted Romanticism contrasts with the significantly more angular, modernistic Op. 32. Whether evoking ballad or bell toll, the exotic or folk influences, the Préludes stand in the great tradition of works by Bach and Chopin written in all 24 major and minor keys. (full sleeve notes)

Apple Music - Top 10 Classical Albums, April 2019

Rachmaninov’s Préludes are so substantial—big-boned even when wistful—that they always seem an arrival. They aren’t, like Chopin’s, a through-composed entity, but here, too, each tonality figures and it’s arresting to listen to the whole. Highlights of this beautiful account must be the magical G major, Op 32, No 5, the immense B minor (inspired by a Böcklin painting) and the complementary outer pieces in C sharp minor and D flat.

The Sunday Times, April 2019

Rachmaninov’s Preludes for solo piano, written in various stages between 1892 and 1910, also caused him grief (“I dislike this occupation and it’s heavy going”) but resulted in 24 remarkable, varied Romantic miniatures covering all the major and minor keys, following the example of Chopin. As with The Isle of the Dead, some had visual prompts (again from Böcklin paintings), others are abstract, their stories unknown. Familiar as solo pieces, the “tolling bells” of Op 3 No 2 in C sharp minor, the surging energy of Op 23 No 2 in B flat, the exotic majesty of Op 23 No 5 in G minor, all are played with vivid skill, colour and poetry by the young Moscow-born Israeli pianist Boris Giltburg (Naxos). Hear his Inside Music (Radio 3) from last week on BBC Sounds.

The Guardian, 14th April 2019

Boris Giltburg performs Rachmaninov’s complete preludes with dexterity and panache. Altogether, this is a cherishable disc.

Financial Times, April 2019

... a significant addition to a competitive Rachmaninov catalog. Highly recommended.

The Classic Review, 17th April 2019