Sergei Rachmaninov, RACHMANINOV: Complete Works for Cello and Piano

Daphne Carr

By Daphne Carr

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
You can hear an entire orchestra in two simple, busy instruments!

Lanky, virtuosic and chronically depressed, Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninov was a pianist's pianist. Musicians like to joke that his cello sonata is actually a piano concerto backed by a single-cello orchestra. Indeed, Rachmaninov wrote the opus 19 Cello Sonata right after his famous bout of depression and recovery led to the composition of his second piano concerto. Like the second concerto, this sonata exemplifies Rachmaninov's career-long love for fusing two distant but compatible genres: Gershwin-flavored jazz and Russian folk sounds. On the Andante especially, Grebanier and Guggenheim nail a certain strain of schmaltzy but dignified melancholy common to both Manhattan lounge pianists and Slavic peasants crying into their vodka.