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Review Article

Sergei Rachmaninoff: Suite op. 5 and 17, Symphonic Dances op. 45 – Alexander Kobrin and Frédéric D’Oria-Nicolas; CD review

In today’s review, I would like to share with you one of my favourite albums of two-piano music by Sergei Rachmaninoff. Recording made by Alexander Kobrin and Frédéric D’Oria-Nicolas at Arsenal Metz concert hall in 2013 brings together two superb artists and world-class audio recording and engineering. The four CDs included here contain both Suites for two pianos, op. 5 and op. 17 by Sergei Rachmaninoff, as well as his Symphonic Dances Op. 45.


Rachmaninoff Suite No. 1, op.5 (video excerpt)

According to the booklet, out of twelve available grand pianos (!), two Steinway instruments were selected by artists for the recording. You can listen to the powerful sound and atmosphere of this interpretation in the video of the Barcarolle from Rachmaninoff’s Suite No. 1, Op. 5:

Barcarolle – S. Rachmaninoff – Suite No. 1, Op. 5

The level of precision, the communication between both artists, and the length of phrasing are genuinely remarkable. The voicing of textures created by both pianists gives the listener a sense of vast space and three-dimensional performance. The beautiful and reverberant sound, intensified by the concert hall’s acoustic properties, highlights the music’s melodic qualities, giving it an intimate character.

Rachmaninoff Suite No. 2, op. 17 (video excerpt)

To complement my description of this release, I would like to share with you one more excerpt from the recording, this time from Rachmaninov’s Suite No. 2 Op. 17: II. Valse:

Valse – S. Rachmaninov – Suite No. 2, Op. 17

In this excerpt, the speed of the music is carefully crafted to allow for utmost clarity and precision. The sound is lush and sweet, while the valse character is highlighted by lively articulation and accentuation.

It is worth noting that this release includes two versions of each suite (two CDs each). The first CD set is engineered for a stereo system reproduction (‘Fidelity Mastering’). At the same time, the other copy was created with listeners accustomed to mp3 format (‘Mobility Mastering’ – presumably addressing the loss of some of the frequencies due to the mp3 conversion from the original format).

The two points of excellence brought together in this album are the performers – with their artful music-making and sound creation, and audio engineering – capturing the music convincingly.

This recording of Rachmaninoff Suites and Symphonic Dances for two pianos performed by Kobrin and D’Oria-Nicolas is beautifully published and accompanied by a detailed booklet. It will be an excellent addition to any classical CD collection for a music lover.

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