Rachmaninov: Complete Preludes / Eldar Nebolsin

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RACHMANINOFF Preludes (complete) • Eldar Nebolsin (pn) • NAXOS 8.570327 (77: 44) The technical and musical demands of the Rachmaninoff preludes are legion. A partial...

RACHMANINOFF Preludes (complete) Eldar Nebolsin (pn) NAXOS 8.570327 (77: 44)

The technical and musical demands of the Rachmaninoff preludes are legion. A partial catalog might include: the ability to negotiate massive chords, sensitively voiced and often in quick succession; seamless arpeggios; perfect thirds, sixths, and other double-note figurations; a wide variety of attack and release strategies; the most delicate, leggierissimo fioratura; infinitely calibrated effects of crescendo, diminuendo, accelerando , and meno mosso ; intelligent rubato; and perhaps above all, the ability to launch and sustain a singing line. To these requirements might be added some suggestion of that special attribute (of which Rachmaninoff himself was the unexcelled exemplar) namely, the ability to suggest aural planes—a vivid foreground, mid-distance, and background—capable of revealing the most complex textures to the listener. Happily, this new recording reveals Eldar Nebolsin as a pianist equal to these demands.

After encountering Ashkenazy’s recording of these pieces from the mid 1970s (Decca 475 8238), I find Nebolsin’s interpretations are a breath of fresh air. Each piece unfolds as a miniature drama with its own unique character, lending the entire set great variety of mood—from serene tranquility, to ebullient joy, to the most crushing sadness. Nothing in these interpretations suggests the routine. Nebolsin is hypersensitive to each of Rachmaninoff’s articulation indications, pedal markings, and dynamic subtleties. And while the performances are thoughtful, they never sound fussy. In every instance, one has the feeling that this bouquet of late-Romantic expression emanates directly from the pianist’s heart.

The highest compliment that may be paid Nebolsin’s technique is that, in its complete subordination to the music, one is simply never aware of it. His sound is always beautiful, whether in the transparency of the most massive fortissimos or in the rainbow of subtly contrasted pianissimos. If the soaring op. 23/2 takes flight effortlessly, its fierce left-hand figurations never obtrude on the ebb and flow of exultant musical substance. The exquisite op. 23/10 breathes all the freshness of dew on delicate blossoms opening to the morning sun; the voice leading is simply gorgeous. The great B-Minor Prelude (op. 32/10) begins with a heart-rending sadness, so immobilized and still that the subsequent chordal section assumes an awesome grandeur of uncanny power and eloquence.

The recording was made in Westleton, Suffok, U.K., this past January and is, in all technical aspects, commendable. One hopes that, despite the inevitable vicissitudes of career-building, this 33-year-old pianist will continue to exhibit this degree of instrumental prowess in the service of a sensitive and deeply artistic musicality. Highly recommended.

FANFARE: Patrick Rucker

Product Description:

  • Release Date: May 29, 2007

  • UPC: 747313032778

  • Catalog Number: 8570327

  • Label: Naxos

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Composer: Sergei Rachmaninov

  • Performer: Eldar Nebolsin