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“Special Selection Disc”: superbly captivating

Record Geijutsu, Tsutomu Nasuda

“Special Selection Disc” of the month.

The two-piano arrangement of Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 had only existed in the piano-duet version by Wilschau, published two years after the première of the original work. So, Simon Callaghan and Hiroaki Takenouchi decided to make their own arrangement for two pianos with the hope of producing a “true piano work” that went beyond merely imitating the orchestral version. Their model was apparently the composer’s own arrangement of Symphonic Dances, and it seems their objectives were brilliantly achieved here. I am told the two pianists met while they were students at the Royal College of Music and formed a piano duo and have worked on numerous orchestral arrangements.

In the Largo introduction of the first movement, the motif heard throughout the entire work is played solemnly: it’s a spine-tingling opening. This introduction is long and highly varied in its contents, but the carefully crafted arrangement combined with their playing that maximises the lingering sound of the pianos makes it highly gripping.

Their meticulous reading of the text in the main section, combined with their confident ensemble and skilful pedalling, makes this a superbly captivating listen.

The beginning of the second movement is full of life and energy, and it is sharply contrasted with the melancholy Moderato that ensues. They produce the tonal colours and feelings skilfully with the Western-European and urbane sophistication. The third movement’s celebrated melodies are attractively phrased and superbly balanced with the multiple accompaniment voices. The final movement is energetic and its scale grand, and they build the climaxes expertly. Overall, it is so convincing that it is comparable to the composer’s original works such as Suite for Two Pianos. One of my three best discs of the month.

Translated from Japanese.

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