Choose artist...

Top 10 for Oct

Zenph breathes new life into legendary performances by Rachmaninoff

Bookmark and Share

Sony Masterworks and Zenph Studios announce the third release in an ongoing collaboration to breathe new life into legendary performances that have been marred by the poor recording quality of past timestechnologies. Rachmaninoff Plays Rachmaninoff follows upon the success of Zenph Studios' productions of Glenn Gould's 1955 recording of The Goldberg Variations (2007) and Art Tatum's Piano Starts Here (2008). This new compilation of re-performances is made from original masters that the colossal Russian composer and pianist recorded during his lifetime. Available on September 22, 2009, the release celebrates the 100th anniversary of Rachmaninoff's U.S. recital debut.
The recording features Rachmaninoff playing five of his own compositions: the Prelude in C-sharp minor; the Etudes Tableaux in C major and E-flat major, Op. 33; "Daisies"; and Moment Musical in E-flat minor, Op. 16. It also includes Rachmaninoff's renditions of Kreisler's Liebesleid and Liebesfreud; Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee; Mendelssohn's scherzo from A Midsummer Night's Dream; Tchaikovsky's Lullaby, Op. 16 No. 1; and Bach's Violin Partita No. 3.

Sony Masterworks has newly recorded, in crystalline stereo sound, performances originally recorded by Rachmaninoff from 1921–42. The production team selected and customized an instrument that Rachmaninoff likely played during his lifetime - a 1909 nine-foot Steinway D grand piano. This release lets the listener experience his performances without the hissing or popping that were once considered as much a part of those monaural 78s as the music itself. Zenph Studios eliminates the need for such compromise, returning Rachmaninoff's performances to their original luster, like a team of artists restoring the painting of an Old Master.

In re-recording Rachmaninoff's own performances, producer Steve Epstein and engineer Richard King, who have won twenty Grammy Awards between them, have studied the original recordings in tremendous detail. Zenph's team, led by Dr. Anatoly Larkin, analyzed the execution of each and every note - determining its length, the strength of attack, and the exact nature of the pedal action, in addition to scores of other variables - and processed this information as computer files. The files were then sent to the customized grand piano, which articulated this information as music. The performances are identical to the originals, except for the vastly improved quality of the sound. With these re-performances, it is possible to experience the kind of recording Rachmaninoff would have made had he lived in the era of high-resolution audio reproduction.
The selection of pieces provides the perfect picture of Rachmaninoff as a composer and pianist of distinctly Russian pedigree. His love for the work of his compatriots is represented in Rimsky-Korsakov's dizzying "Flight of the Bumblebee" and Tchaikovsky's "Lullaby," which the pianist seems to play in one huge breath of sound. The inclusionprogramming  of Mendelssohn's scherzo from A Midsummer Night's Dream reflects Rachmaninoff's indebtedness as a young musician to the elegant emotionalism of the German composer.

Rachmaninoff's playing of his own compositions shows off the composer's technical mastery as an architect of profound musical moments. His splendid rhythmic drive, deliberate touch, incredible strength, and organic sense for dynamics were tied to a brilliant sense of each piece's structure, from vivid portraiture to virtuoso feats, each tinged with the composer's indelible sense for melancholy. In all of his performances, Rachmaninoff selected one climactic emotional moment and constructed an entire understanding of the piece around it. In the new recording, each tone rings out like a bell.

Rachmaninoff was known for his exacting standards during his recording sessions: biographer Max Harrison relates that he used a hammer to smash the 78s for takes he deemed unsatisfactory. The team at Zenph Studios is proud to restore the brilliance to these exquisite artifacts of musical genius. Rachmaninoff Plays Rachmaninoff is a recording in which the composer and pianist would have recognized himself.

All 13 tracks are presented twice on the CD, once in regular stereo, and again for headphones.  For the second version, the "dummy head" was positioned where Rachmaninoff's head would have been during the recording, so listeners hear the music as Rachmaninoff himself might have heard it when he was seated at the piano.

RCA Red Seal, Sony Classical, deutsche harmonia mundi, Masterworks Broadway and Masterworks Jazz are labels of Sony Masterworks. For e-mail updates and information regarding RCA Red Seal, Sony Classical, RCA deutsche harmonia mundi, Masterworks Broadway and Masterworks Jazz artists, promotions, tours and repertoire, please visit