Classical reviews

> Rakhmaninov: Sonatas 1 and 2. Leslie Howard (piano). Melba CD.

Another outstanding release from the Australian label are these sonatas by Rachmaninov (Melba uses a different transliteration) plus Three Piano Pieces (1917) and the Russian composer's brief arrangement of Nunc Dimittis Op 37 No 5. Melbourne-born Howard is probably the most prolific soloist on disc with more than 130 recordings.

Sonata No 2 is a showpiece for virtuosos, considered unplayable by many when written in 1913 and then simplified after its premiere, but here Howard romps through the original version to show what a great Romantic sonata it is, resonant with the ever-present tolling of bells, as Howard observes in the notes.

Recorded in England in 2009, this is a treat for all Rachmaninov and piano music lovers.

Highlight: Sonata's original splendour.


> Rameau: Pieces de clavecin en concerts 1741. Restoration. Restoration CD.

Restoration is the New Zealand ensemble of Robert Petre (harpsichord), Bronwen Pugh and Graham McPhail (violins.)

French composer Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764) wrote five pieces for harpsichord in concert (1741) regarded as masterworks of baroque chamber music. The trio has chosen a sound balance from microphones and performance with forward keyboard and relatively quiet violins that follows the composer's concept of the melody instruments blending with and accompanying the harpsichord.

The music contains dramatic dances and beautiful slow movements, recorded three years ago in a Wellington chapel. The chirp of a bird and other minor intrusions may be heard among the ' fine and dedicated artistry.

Highlight: Rollicking 'Tambourin en rondeau' in Troisieme Concert.


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