November 4, 2019. Fans of The Philadelphia Orchestra know Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances as an orchestral work; it was the Russian master’s final composition, written for our own fabulous Philadelphians. But pianists are especially drawn to the Symphonic Dances in Rachmaninoff’s own arrangement for two pianos.
Our Classical Album of the Week, featuring young South Korean pianist Dong Hyek Lim with legendary virtuosa Martha Argerich, proves that the Symphonic Dances are just as compelling played by 20 fingers as by a force of 100 musicians.
Lim and Argerich bring pianistic fire and a feel of the dance to each of the three movements. From the opening, questioning eighth notes, the duo displays a sense of natural synchronicity and urgency. The two pianists offer a give-and-take of the nostalgic melody of the second movement waltz with sinuous lyricism.
The final dance is replete with complex rhythms and quotations from both the Dies irae (a favorite motif of Rachaninoff’s) and the composer’s own All-Night Vigil; Lim’s and Argerich’s performance explodes with power, contras, and an exultant, brilliant finish.
The other half of the album features Lim in a performance of Rachmaninoff’s beloved Piano Concerto No. 2. It’s a work that’s been performed and recorded by countless pianists. Lim’s rendition offers lush sound, an unhurried tenderness in the famous lyrical sections, and brilliance in the technical passages. Lim finds an agile partner in the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Alexander Vedernikov.
Our Classical Album of the Week is a worthy addition to any pianophile’s collection, and a pleasure to listen to at any time!