“The heat of Rachmaninoff’s music is like the heat of dry ice, it’s so cold that it burns you.” – Leon Fleisher
Like the memory of an enkindled winter’s kiss, Rachmaninoff can clutch you by the throat, not to mention the heart. The music transfixes our soul, engendering lifelong adoration for such immutable layers of melody, harmony and ebullient Slavic passion, penned only as the singular Sergei R could have.
Who of us, though, can truly know Rachmaninoff? From the 21st century’s vantage point – more than 75 years on from the composer-pianist’s death – his music is perpetrated the world over, arguably by far too many interpreters with far too little to say. Performing Rachmaninoff’s music has never been an easy feat but rarely does one encounter a quintessence, a spirit of truth from his espousers. To appropriate a quote from the composer himself, “but do they exalt?”
With so much performance practice swirling around Sergei (R) and his catalogue, richly gifted and rare, sympathetic interpreters such as Sergei (B), tend to twinkle and gleam atop the pianistic flotsam we hear all too often from – those self-indulgent, over-wrought bloviators Rachmaninoff’s music seems perennially entrapped by. In the hands of Babayan, the listener finally beholds an inheritance: a musical – cultural – inheritance that is fierce yet fragile, at moments comprised only of single, radiating strands. Transmuting this elusive, quintessential expression, Babayan fully fathoms this coveted lineage and his own recent contribution to it.