The Strad Issue: January 2009
Musicians: Dene Olding (violin), Goldner Quartet, Joan Rodgers (soprano), Vladimir Ashkenazy (piano)
Composer: Rachmaninoff, Mussorgsky

Beyond the Cello Sonata of 1901, Rachmaninoff is hardly remembered for his chamber music. Here, though, is a collection bringing together some of the music he wrote for strings as a student and young man, forming part of Vladimir Ashkenazy’s long-term aim to record every note the composer wrote (hence, also, the welcome but slightly off-centre inclusion of two mature songs dropped from his op.38 set).

The solo violin pieces hardly rise above the salon, but there’s some echt-Rachmaninoff in the piano accompaniment to the ‘Dance hongroise’ from op.6. The two string quartets are unfortunately incomplete: the outer movements of no.1 (c.1889) are lost and the two of no.2 (c.1896) were posthumously edited from the composer’s drafts. They already reveal Rachmaninoff’s way with melody, but most prophetic is the ominous ground bass in the Andante of the Second, which forms the highlight of the Goldner Quartet’s rich-textured contribution to the disc.

The style of music arguably calls for a sweeter tone than Dene Olding, the quartet’s first violinist, conjures from his 1720 Giuseppe Guarneri violin in the solo pieces, but his phraseology is spot on, especially in the Vocalise. The recordings – all but Joan Rodgers’s eloquent performance of the songs from the Sydney Opera House’s concert hall – are warm and atmospheric.

Matthew Rye