Rachmaninov: Op 39 & Op 16 CD review – beguiling ambiguity

Boris Giltburg (piano)

Rachmaninov wrote two sets of études-tableaux, literally study-pictures. Outside the sphere of pianists and Rachmaninov fans, they remain a fairly well hidden secret. The Russian-Israeli Boris Giltburg, in his CD note to the later set, Op 39, describes them as short stories: “captivating, meticulously crafted to trim all excess… movies with accomplished cinematography and lighting”. Each of the nine jewel-like miniatures in the cycle – mostly under five minutes in length – possesses a beguiling ambiguity, from brooding to pitch black, interrupted by flashes of light. Giltburg, a natural Rachmaninov interpreter, plays with technical fluidity and honed musicality.


Fiona Maddocks

The GuardianTramp

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