Rachmaninov – The “Elegiac” piano trios


Question. When you were young, did you have this challenge for yourself: what would you take from the house if it were on fire? I had that of course, and I think many people thought about that. When you’re young it is the teddy bear, or maybe the favourite toy car. As you get older for most of us it will be the family pictures. For me it was always about memories. Items convey nostalgia in the best way possible. This record is a one way trip to nostalgiland for me. I also think it is the best recording ever made of any classical work. Bar none.

Somehow this record sounds good on every stereo setup I had, so also on this. The sound engineer has done a terrific job. Ralph Couzens is now the managing director of Chandos, after more than 30 years of being a sound engineer. It is good to see talent rewarded.

This record led to me trying to find more recordings from the same engineer, or from Chandos. It also led to my admiration of the Borodin Quartet, of which I found and listened to many a recording. I also had the honour of seeing them live, but I’ll get to that later.

The first trio was written and performed when Rachmaninoff was just 18, in 1892. It is not written as a memory to his friend Tchaikovsky, as some might believe. However, it does have a connection, and it sounds a bit like the stories that are told about some tracks of metal bands: if you play it backwards… no really! If you play it backward the repetitive theme is basically the first piano concerto of Tchaikovsky. The work was published after Rachmaninoff’s death, so it does not have an opus number, except the designation opus posthumous (op. posth.).

The second trio is the opus 9. It was written one year later than the first. Rachmaninoff finished it when the composer had died after having imbibed t.b.c. infected water. He dedicated it to the memory of a great artist.

Yes, this would be the record I would take from my house if it were on fire. Perish the thought.

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