DESKTOP
TABLET (max. 1024px)
MOBILE (max. 640px)
Return to Top
Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

LEBRECHT LISTENS | Rachmaninov At His Most Conversational

By Norman Lebrecht on August 28, 2020

Lebrecht-Rachmaninov-Sergei_Babayan

Rachmaninov: Preludes, Etudes (DG)

★★★★★

🎧  Spotify | Apple Music | Amazon

The arrival of an altogether astonishing album has made me break my solemn (and unrealistic) pledge to review only neglected composers during the COVID pandemic. Nobody could possibly call Rachmaninov neglected, although with the disruption of a regular supply of live music with a living, breathing audience this recital of solo pieces has the shock of the new — the more so when played by the Armenian artist Sergei Babayan, in his major-label debut.

Sergei Babayan, 59, is best known as the teacher of Daniil Trifonov and occasional four-hand partner of Martha Argerich. Based in New York, he is an unobtrusive presence on the star circuit. What makes his Rachmaninov so remarkable is its absence of obvious virtuosity. It has none of the usual ‘I can play this with one hand behind my back while eating a Jaffa orange’, no winks to an imaginary fan club, no unnecessary flourishes.

This is Rachmaninov at his most conversational, a word in your ear, a little story to tell. I was gripped from the opening of the A-flat major prelude to the flutters of the Études-Tableaux, to the dark and shadowy prelude in B minor, a morose mood that not many pianists convey with the requisite authenticity. Rachmaninov, we know, was prone to depression. But he was also a social animal, a man who liked to be invited to Hollywood dinner parties, who could hold his own at banter, so long as the language was Russian and the beverage vodka.

That’s what Babayan brings over in this utterly absorbing album, which he dedicates to the memory of his own teacher, Georgy Saradjev. The closing pages of the B-minor prelude constitute a masterclass in how to put the music first. The recital took place in Hamburg in December 2009: why did it take so long to release it?

To read more from Norman Lebrecht, follow him on Slippedisc.com.

Norman Lebrecht’s new book Genius and Anxiety is available now.

#LUDWIGVAN

Want more updates on classical music and opera news and reviews? Follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter for all the latest.

Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.

Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300
comments powered by Disqus

Ludwig Van Toronto

FEATURE | Anna Chatterton: An Independent Theatre Artist In A Time Of Plague

By Paula Citron on September 8, 2020

Independent playwright/librettist/actor Anna Chatterton talks about working through the trauma of seeing four years’ work cancelled by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300

THE SCOOP | Toronto Symphony Announces New Drive-In Concert Series

By Michael Vincent on September 17, 2020

In a new partnership with CityView Drive-In, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra will present three live and in-person performances next month.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article

IN MEMORIAM | National Ballet Of Canada Mourns Dancer Joanne Nisbet

By Michael Vincent on September 10, 2020

Former dancer and Senior Ballet Mistress with the National Ballet of Canada Joanne Nisbet has died.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_low_590x300
lv_toronto_ssb_atf_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_high_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_mid_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_low_300x300
lv_toronto_tsb_high_300x700
lv_toronto_tsb_low_300x700
lv_toronto_ssb_atf_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_high_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_mid_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_low_300x300
lv_toronto_tsb_high_300x700
lv_toronto_tsb_low_300x700

We have detected that you are using an adblocking plugin in your browser.

The revenue we earn by the advertisements is used to manage this website. Please whitelist our website in your adblocking plugin.