First recording of discovered Rachmaninoff work released
7 July 2006
The world premiere recording of an unpublished Rachmaninoff sketch discovered and reconstructed by concert pianist and Conservatorium PhD candidate Scott Davie has just been released on Davie's latest ABC Classics CD.
Mr Davie, who lectures in Russian music history at the Conservatorium, found the sketch of the piano piece in a box of uncatalogued papers in the Rachmaninoff archives in
He was "quite amazed", he said, to uncover the short sketch in Rachmaninoff's hand, hidden amongst a pile of totally blank manuscript pages where it had been languishing for possibly 60 years or more.
Satisfied that it was complete in itself, whether Rachmaninoff had intended it to stand alone or be incorporated into something larger later,
As the sketch was on Russian manuscript paper unlikely to have been available in the West,
The style of the piece bore this out.
"The piece is a template of Rachmaninoff's style in his last years in Russia, which didn't really continue after that period," he said. "Eclectic, short-form, pictorial, experimental, harmonically unpredictable, modern - in fact this was possibly the most modern phase of his composing life."
In the West, while Rachmaninoff did later return to composing - mostly large-form works in a more pared-back style different from both his short, modern works and the earlier, more conservative audience pleasers - his reputation as a composer was greatly eclipsed by his reputation as the most famous pianist of his time,
"He's an extraordinarily interesting composer who just maybe had some bad press for being too popular for a while."
The discovered, two-page manuscript was a shorthand sketch, and not refined for publication, so
"But I'd say it's 98 per cent accurate," he said.
Till his discovery of the work, the most recent Rachmaninoff 'find' had probably been the short Piano Piece in D Minor, published in 1973 but dating from 1917,
The newly released CD, which Davie chose to record on the Conservatorium's Overs piano, also includes his rendition of Rachmaninoff's infrequently played First Piano Sonata - "perhaps his most densely textured and difficult work" - as well as the title track, Mussorgsky's popular Pictures from an Exhibition.
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