Rachmaninov: Etudes-tableaux, Op 39; Moments musicaux, Op 16

Reviewed on Thu 07 Jul, 2016

Boris Giltburg has the patrician technique, the narrative imagination and the soulful identification to do full justice to these masterpieces, and he is dynamically recorded into the bargain.

Rachmaninov’s two sets of Études-tableaux contain some of his greatest and most vivid writing for solo piano. The nine pieces that make up the opus 39 collection (the other is opus 33) are as romantic as they are dramatic as they are pictorial. Beauty and tenderness, too, as in the A minor No 2 (Lento assai), and the whole is a wonderful assault on the senses and the emotions. Boris Giltburg has the patrician technique, the narrative imagination and the soulful identification to do full justice to these masterpieces, and is dynamically recorded into the bargain – an apt word given this is a Naxos release. The Études account for forty minutes of the disc. The remaining thirty are the six Moments musicaux, music of lyrical charm, no less passion and flights of expressive fancy. Giltburg makes each of them speak directly; No 4 really scintillates, while its successor comes from the heart.
–Colin Anderson