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William Conway - Rachmaninov, Lutoslawski and Webern - Gramophone

Lutoslawski's Grave is a typically fastidious and confident piece, and packs a surprising deal of incident into its six minutes—surprising at least, given the expectations aroused by the title and by the slowPelleas et Melisande-derived opening idea. William Conway and Peter Evans are intelligent and poetic guides here, as they are in the hyper-intense inner vistas of Webern's Op. 11 Pieces.

In this context the warmly nostalgic opening of the Rachmaninov Sonata is quite a surprise. But the performance—heartfelt, languishing where necessary, always carefully textured (and what a challenge Rachmaninov's textures are at times)—wisely resists the temptation to suffocate the music in expression. I suppose that ideally I would favour an interpretation which felt freer to ride the emotional surf, and that generated a greater sense of uplift, and I don't think that would be incompatible with Conway and Evans's basic approach. Warm though the recording is, it feels like the warmth of a confined space rather than a hall in which the sound can be floated and illusions of perspective naturally suggested.

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Gramophone
01 August 1993