Rachmaninov: Piano Sonata No 1; Chopin Variations – review

Vladimir Ashkenazy

Vladimir Ashkenazy's 1970s recordings of Rachmaninov's concertos and works for solo piano remain among the finest of this repertoire. But that survey of the piano music was never completed, and it's only now that Ashkenazy has filled in two of its most obvious omissions. Both are early works: the Chopin Variations, based on the C minor Prelude Op 28 No 20, date from 1902, while the First Piano Sonata was finished five years later. Ashkenazy approaches the works with the generosity and dramatic sweep that has always characterised his piano playing, and his tone is as luminous as ever. But there is nevertheless something effortful about the performances, a sense that this is no longer music Ashkenazy can technically take in his stride. There are still glimpses of the great pianist he used to be, but unfortunately they are mingled with passages that make you regret he did not record these works 30 years ago.


Andrew Clements

The GuardianTramp

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