As an artist deeply immersed in the world of music, I am thrilled to share with you my latest endeavor, the album “The Landscapes of the Soul,” dedicated to the complete Préludes of the illustrious Sergei Rachmaninoff. Rachmaninoff’s music holds a special place in my heart, a place where emotions are stirred, and the soul resonates with the profound beauty of his compositions.
Rachmaninoff’s music, to me, is a direct conversation with the heart. It transcends time and space, evoking a sense of nostalgia that harks back to the Romantic era. As Rachmaninoff himself eloquently expressed, “Music talks only to the heart: it is love! Music is the sister of poetry, and her mother is sorrow.” This sentiment perfectly encapsulates the essence of the repertoire I chose for this album.
Rachmaninoff’s soul, multifaceted and complex, reveals itself through his compositions. He was an exile, leaving his homeland of Russia in 1918, never to return. The echoes of his troubled childhood resound in the nostalgic undertones woven throughout his music. The soul of a Romantic beats within him, reminiscent of the great composers Chopin, Schumann, and Liszt. Furthermore, he wears the hat of a poet, as his music is a manifestation of pure poetry. In exploring Rachmaninoff’s works, I navigate through these various facets, each contributing to the rich tapestry of his artistic identity.
The peculiar circumstances of the lockdown period provided an unexpected opportunity for a deep dive into my musical exploration. With the absence of touring, I redirected my energies toward perfecting my interpretation of Rachmaninoff’s Préludes. It was a period of intense focus, akin to a research scientist meticulously conducting experiments in a laboratory. The result is an 80-minute musical journey, a testament to the dedication and passion poured into every note.
The Préludes, to me, are a collection of emotional miniatures that demand an infusion of profound sentiment. They serve as a poignant reflection of the Russian soul, carrying the fragrances of Russian landscapes and influences from the East. As Rachmaninoff aptly noted, “Every note is important, but what’s most important is the soul, this spark of the soul.” Hence, the title of the album, “The Landscapes of the Soul,” encapsulates the contrasting emotions, from nostalgia to sadness, painted across this musical canvas.
Undoubtedly, undertaking the complete Préludes presents a formidable challenge. Clocking in at 80 minutes, the sheer length demands a muscular engagement that involves the entire body. Comparisons with previous recordings by pianists like Weissenberg and Ashkenazy inevitably arise, adding an extra layer of complexity to the endeavor. However, challenges are the crucibles where artistic growth occurs, and I embraced this opportunity to stretch my artistic boundaries.
In contemplating Sergei Rachmaninoff in three words, I find myself settling on “humble, imposing, and generous.” His physical presence was imposing, with large hands and a massive handspan. Yet, beneath this imposing exterior, he was a humble and generous soul, contributing both time and money to his homeland.
Expressing Rachmaninoff’s music as a performer is an exhilarating experience. However, the danger lies in succumbing to the temptation to overdramatize, especially in the slow Préludes. Striking a delicate balance between emotional depth and maintaining control is essential. As Rachmaninoff’s writing is polyphonic and rich, the use of the sostenuto pedal becomes crucial. Rachmaninoff himself emphasized, “The pedal is the soul of the piano,” and I employ it judiciously to enhance the expressive nuances within the compositions.
The album is not merely a showcase of technical prowess but a sincere attempt to convey the poignant expressivity of Rachmaninoff’s music. The sostenuto pedal, employed strategically, becomes a tool to preserve the integrity of the music, allowing the narrative aspect and the inimitable cantabile style to shine through. In Op.23, No.7, I utilize it to hold the bass notes, while in Op.32, No.10, I juggle between all three pedals simultaneously, drawing inspiration from the teachings of the venerable Vladimir Viardo.
In conclusion, “The Landscapes of the Soul” is more than a collection of Rachmaninoff’s Préludes; it is a journey through the emotional and sonic landscapes of the Russian soul. It represents a culmination of dedicated work, a testament to the challenges overcome, and an homage to the multifaceted genius of Sergei Rachmaninoff. As I release this album into the world, I invite listeners to embark on this musical odyssey, exploring the depths of emotion and the timeless beauty encapsulated within each note.