Boris Giltburg Plays Rachmaninov
The Russian-Israeli pianist Boris Giltburg performs with passion and conviction in his new recital of Rachmaninov. The winner of the prestigious Queen Elizabeth Competition in 2013, Giltburg has already enjoyed a successful recording career. Most recently, he has been recording for Naxos. His first two Naxos releases featured the music of Schumann and Beethoven. I loved these recordings, but Giltburg seems to me emotionally most at home with Rachmaninov.
The CD includes the Etudes tableaux, Op. 39. a set of nine pieces composed in 1916, just before the composer left his homeland for the United States, and the Moments Musicaux, a set of six pieces composed in 1896. The music is technically demanding, heart-tugging, and presents, on the whole, the darker, sadder range of human emotions. Giltburg has great technical gifts which are blended into the service of the music.
The Etudes tableaux are the more musically complex of the two works. The pieces, as Giltburg explains in his liner notes, are short stories and tone poems with Rachmaninov explaining the mood and scene he wanted to convey. For example, Giltburg begins his discussion with no. 6, which is a musical portrayal of the story of Little Red Riding Hood. Of course the works go far beyond any story the composer may have had in mind. These nine pieces are quirky, heavily romantic, and moody. I was taken with the works and Giltburg's performance well before turning to the liner notes.
The Moments Musicaux have the lyricism of Schubert's small set of six pieces with this title but the feeling of this late romantic music is far more intense. Rachmaninov's set is music of unrestrained feeling, both in the slow odd numbered works of the set and in the virtuosic, passionate even numbered works. I was more swept away by these performances than by the later Etudes tableaux, particularly by the final four works of the set. This is soulful, romantic, personal music.
This recording of Rachmaninov has already received high acclaim. It was named Record of the Month for June, 2016 by Gramophone. In his review, Patrick Rucker described Giltburg as " that genuine rarity: a pianist whose Rachmaninov is entirely idiomatic yet intensely personal in a way that yields fresh perspectives on this well traversed repertory." Rucker praised Gilburg's voicing, rhythm, musical sense, and, most importantly, the feeling he brought to this music. Rucker concluded: "Without ostentation or fuss, he has examined these scores in every kind of light, lived with them and come up with a vision that, without being wilfully contrarian, is nevertheless something beyond received wisdom. I suspect that before long this vision will place him among the truly memorable Rachmaninov interpreters, ..... His originality stems from a convergence of heart and mind, served by immaculate technique and motivated by a deep and abiding love for one of the 20th century's greatest composer-pianists." I think the praise for this performance is deserved.
I recently read a book "Play Life More Beautifully" consisting of conversations with pianist Seymour Bernstein. Bernstein made a highly insightful reference to Rachmaninov and to the emotive power of music which reinforced my feeling for the performance offered on this CD. Bernstein said:
""The miracle of music is that even though Bach and Rachmaninoff were born in different centuries, and lived in different parts of the world,, nevertheless, their music communicates the deepest feelings. That's the miracle of music. It's ageless. It doesn't matter that it's from a different century. The message comes out clearly."
I am usually more taken with earlier music than with Russian romanticism. Yet this music had a visceral appeal to me. This CD will appeal to lovers of Rachmaninov and to lovers of the piano. Naxos kindly sent me a review copy.
Total Time: 70:40