- Vocalise, transcription for piano, Op. 34/14
There is no shortage of recordings of Rachmaninov's "Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18," one of the most popular pieces in the classical repertory ever since its slow-movement clarinet solo underlaid the quintessence of cinematic romance, Brief Encounter. But this one, by pianist Alexandre Tharaud (he may not be as well known as the decision to omit his first name in the graphics would presume, but he's getting there), is worth strong consideration. It's not blood-and-thunder Rachmaninov, so those seeking that in the C minor concerto might look elsewhere. But there's absolute clarity throughout, and with that an attractively variable dialogue with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra under Alexander Vedernikov, one of the unsung Russian conductors who are having the times of their lives in Britain these days. Perhaps the highlight of the album is the early set of "Cinq Morceaux de fantaisie, Op. 3," in which Tharaud's way with a restrained but involving narrative thread comes to the fore. Sample the character piece "Polichinelle" in F sharp minor. The version of the "Vocalise, Op. 34," here is unremarkable, and the two "Pieces for six hands" at the end are not the virtuoso showpieces that might be imagined, but rather salon novelties. So the program peters out somewhat. But those in search of an elegant C minor concerto or near-definitive "Cinq Morceaux de fantaisie" should hear this release.