- Piano Sonata No. 1 in D minor, Op. 28
- The Seasons, for piano, Op. 37
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It is pleasing to see the "First Piano Sonata" of Rachmaninov on a new album, and particularly on SACD. Although not nearly as widely performed as the more popular "Second Sonata," this sometimes ambling early work is nonetheless worthy of performance. The piece was originally conceived as a programmatic work around "Faust," but Rachmaninov later dropped this reference; perhaps keeping it would have provided slightly more guidance to listeners, however. The Tchaikovsky "Seasons, Op. 37b," is another infrequently recorded gift to listeners. Written as a serial offering, each of the miniatures was truly written in the month that bares its name. Pianist Olli Mustonen is a masterful performer whose interpretation of the Rachmaninov "First Sonata" does a great deal to delineate different sections and ideas, thereby providing listeners with a more cohesive and easy-to-follow performance than is typically heard. The multichannel mode of this recording truly surrounds the listener with the sound, making for an enjoyable, concert-like experience. Mustonen's technique is quite plentiful, although his approach to some of the more forceful sections (especially in the third movement) are a little soft and may leave you wishing for a little more of the angularity with which Ashkenazy approached this sonata. Mustonen's Tchaikovsky is the most convincing and enjoyable recording of this work to memory. His interpretation makes each of the miniatures quite evocative of its program. This album is worthwhile for the Tchaikovsky alone.