Skip to content

I’ll retrospectively add it to my ‘best of year’ list, as it’s that good

The Arts Desk, Graham Rickson 

This two-piano transcription of Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 2 is a blast. Simon Callaghan and Hiroaki Takenouchi point out that keyboard arrangements of orchestral works flourished in the 19th century and offered amateur musicians the chance to explore new works. Rachmaninov made four-hand arrangements of his 1st and 3rd Symphonies, and a two-piano version of No. 2 made by one Vladimir Wilschau was published in 1910. Callaghan and Takenouchi’s take on the piece was an attempt “to create a true piano work, rather than a less-than-satisfactory imitation of the orchestral version”. The first draft was premiered in 2017, the score subsequently revised in an attempt to achieve the “beautiful economy” heard in, say, Rachmaninov’s own keyboard version of the Symphonic Dances.

You hear things in this performance that usually slip by unnoticed.

The first movement’s doomy climax is genuinely terrifying, the pealing bell sounds accentuated. And the reprise of the lyrical second theme has such warmth. The movement’s coda has a real kick, the final bass note like a poke with a sharp stick. Rachmaninov’s scherzo zips along, the slow accelerando (two minutes in) immaculately controlled, the central fugato crisp and full of purpose. The “Adagio” never loses shape, and the finale doesn’t feel a bar too long, its second subject sounding here as if it’s absconded from a piano concerto last movement. The last few minutes are exultant.

This recording was released in late 2022 and I’ll retrospectively add it to my ‘best of year’ list, as it’s that good. Beautifully recorded too, the two pianos nicely separated.

If you love this symphony (and who doesn’t?), you need this CD.

Back To Top