- Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (Introduction and 24 Variations), in A minor for piano & orchestra, Op. 43 - Sergey Rachmaninov - City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra - Nikolai Lugansky - Sakari Oramo
- Variations on a Theme of Corelli, for piano, Op. 42 - Sergey Rachmaninov - Nikolai Lugansky
- Variations on a Theme of Chopin, for piano, Op. 22 - Sergey Rachmaninov - Nikolai Lugansky
Sergei Rachmaninoff's reputation rests equally on his gift for Romantic melody and the thrilling virtuosity of his piano works, composed as showpieces for his own formidable technique. His Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini has both of these qualities in abundance -- its 18th Variation may be the most indelible of all his yearning tunes -- but it also reminds us of the sheer brilliance of the composer's musical imagination, with its dazzling array of transformations on Paganini's theme. The Rhapsody requires a soloist who can be playful, soulful, and devilish by turns, and Nikolai Lugansky pulls it off with aplomb, even if other pianists have given this music more visceral edge-of-your-seat excitement. But beyond the popular Rhapsody, this disc offers a real treat with Rachmaninoff's two sets of variations for solo piano, which fill out the recital -- such a satisfying program that it's surprising no one has thought of it before. Lugansky is a probing guide in the moody Corelli Variations of 1931, which are more introverted but no less inventive than the roughly contemporary Paganini Rhapsody. He also revels in the freedom of going solo at the keyboard, unconstrained by orchestral accompaniment: This is surely the disc's most personal and expressive performance. Offering a glimpse of Rachmaninoff in his youth, near the turn of the century, the Variations on a Theme of Chopin comprise a scintillating (if slightly long-winded) series of miniatures. Lugansky gives them the same dreamy Romantic quality that distinguished his recordings of Chopin's own Préludes and Études -- music that, like Rachmaninoff's, reveals this pianist as one of today's most compelling young virtuosos.