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Rachmaninov : Piano Transcriptions & Arrangements

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Customer Reviews

Not your best option for these pieces.

Biret is famous, and there's probably a recording or performance from a few years back that justifies that. This is not that recording.

Biret is sort of odd. I get the impression she's a big fan of Horowitz, honestly, since she seems to mimic his tendency to make inner voices jump startlingly out of the texture. Horowitz, however - at least later in life - tried his best to make these voices consistent with an overall interpretation. I honestly feel like Biret is simply bringing out lines in an attempt to distract listeners from other - weaker - aspects of her interpretation.

I think all that is both good and bad about Biret can probably be summed up by listening to her recording of Rachmaninov's transcription of Bach's violin partita in E major.

The first movement is honestly nothing short of a train wreck. There are so many wrong notes that it's actually not even enjoyable for me to listen to, and coming from someone who listens to and enjoys Horowitz, my having an issue because of missed notes is saying a lot. The movement is filled with erratic changes in tempo and dyamic from beginning to end - changes which are very clearly made to accommodate an inability to play the piece with consistency. On some level, I'd love to listen for musicality over technique, but in the case of this movement, her technique is so bad that it obscures whatever musicality might have been there. It feels disjointed and confused.

The middle movement - a gavotte - is not bad in comparison. She takes it significantly slower than any other pianist I've ever heard play it, but it works decently. Here she uses that inner-voice trick I mentioned before, and at times it works pretty well. It's not consistent, though, and I realized by the end of the movement that I had been paying more attention to that single trick than I had been to the overall line of the piece. Listening through it again, I felt like it suffered from the reduction in tempo - the space between chords was enough that the pieces seemed to lose its vitality at times.

The final gigue movement, I think, was the best of the three. It had mistakes, but they didn't cloud the overall musical idea like they did with the first movement. She manages some dynamic contrast in the short phrases, and most of the voicing is very intelligent, if a little shaky on the technical side.

My overall impression is honestly that she's a good musician. But technically, her playing lags so much that I personally have no plans to listen to this album anytime soon. If you're learning these pieces, it's worth getting because she has some insightful musical ideas from time to time. But if you're looking for an overall-sound performance for listening pleasure, I can't recommend it.

My personal recommendation is the Vladimir Ashkenazy album of Rachmaninov's Transcriptions. Ashkenazy is consistently excellent in the technical area, his interpretations are insightful, subtle, intelligent, and satisfying to (at least) my ears, and to be honest, I even prefer it to the old Rachmaninov recording - though that's certainly a good one as well, albeit with a few very audible mistakes.

As with anything musical, there's little I can say that is 100% objective without going into extreme detail. You should feel free to make your own decisions, but I personally feel like this album isn't worth the price, as cheap as it is.

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