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Serge Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto might never have seen the light of day had it not been for hypnosis: before the twenty-seven-year-old composer began work on it, he was on his last legs – financially, artistically and psychologically. Dr Nikolay Dahl hypnotised his patient every day, whispering to him: ‘You will write your concerto. You will work with great fluency. The concerto will be of excellent quality.’ The creative block disappeared, and the concerto’s premiere in Moscow in 1901 was a triumph for Rachmaninov, who played the solo part himself.
Anna Vinnitskaya says she feels ‘a spring-like atmosphere’ in this work: throughout there is a sense of movement, of awakening. The music passes through the most contrasting psychological landscapes, but moves towards clarity and light. Rachmaninov composed the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini in 1934, ten years before his death. Brahms, Liszt, Lutosławski and Andrew Lloyd Webber are among the remarkable roll call of composers inspired by Paganini’s theme.
The Russian pianist and the Polish conductor Krzysztof Urbański have often played Rachmaninoff together, on every continent. The two artists, both of whom present here their third disc for Alpha, were reunited in the NDR studios in Hamburg to record this repertory that fits them like a glove.