This release comes as quite a surprise. Although John Lucas in his 1993 biography of Sir Reginald Goodall refers in a footnote to the existence of a BBC radio recording of the performance of Boris Godunov given at the Royal Opera Covent Garden on 10 June 1961 under Goodall’s baton, he does not list it in his discography of the conductor’s work in the same volume. It was in the event — with the exception of a single performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Golden Cockerel — the last conducting engagement undertaken by Goodall at Covent Garden for ten years. When he next appeared in the pit at the Royal Opera to conduct Parsifal – a BBC recording of one of those performances has already emerged on CD – he had already established his reputation as a Wagnerian. But he had always enjoyed critical approval for his interpretation of Boris, and the appearance of another opera in the sparse representation of Goodall on disc is to be wholeheartedly welcomed.
Berezovsky is a sadly under-rated player, even though he won the Tchakovsky Competition in 1990. His natural talent is given full vent in these Etudes. One must remember that these were studies written by Chopin, each one exploring a singular technical idea - the 'Revolutionary' a test of left-hand power and flexibility, Op.10 No.1 a study in right-hand stretches, etc. Thus in each piece, Berezovsky utilises a different aspect of his phenomenal technique and gives a demonstration of how they should be played. In the CD booklet, one critic accurately observes that Berezovsky 'knows there is plenty of time ahead of him'; and rightly so! In a musical world today where everyone thinks they need to flex their muscle in order to gain attention, Berezovsky carries on at his own pace, regardless. There is no need to play everything at breakneck speed as does Argerich where the tendency is to sink into a show of bad taste and pointless pyrotechnics.
There are many factors that contribute to a great and worthwhile album; the actual performance (in this case by orchestra and soloist) is obviously important, but also significant is recorded sound quality, programming, interesting and informative liner notes, and (although less important) nice packaging doesn't hurt, either. This CD of Rachmaninov's First and Fourth piano concertos and the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini gives listeners all of these things. The liner notes provide an exceptionally useful timeline highlighting the chronology of two concertos, showing where revisions were made and when the final version emerged relative to the initial sketches. The Orchestre Philharmonique de l'Oural does a superb job of providing a lush and sensual backdrop for all three works heard here.