APR 5585, 75:35 (Distrib. Albany) ****:
Inscribed 22 September 1963 at the Greenwich Town Hall, London, this set of the complete Rachmaninov Preludes comprises Volume 5 of the Sergio Fiorentino Early Recordings. Fiorentino (1927-1998) set the entire cycle down in one day, besides documenting two Mozart sonatas, Beethoven’s Appassionata, and the Op. 11 Toccata by Prokofiev. Unlike Weissenberg, whose integral recording for RCA projected a hard, metallic patina, Fiorentino emphasizes the long, lyrical line in Rachmaninov and the extensive left-hand accompaniments, many of which demand intricate fingerwork. There my be something of Debussy in Fiorentino’s approach to Rachmaninov, as in the famous C Sharp Minor, the harmonies spread out in the opening statement like Debussy’s Delphic Dancers. The spaciousness he brings to the B Minor from Op. 32 reminds us of the other greats in this piece, Moiseiwitsch, Lympany, and Bachauer. The carillon sound, again, provides a counterpart for Debussy’s Sunken Cathedral.
The presence of Liszt is no less an influence in the Preludes–as is Chopin–subsequently, many of the figures and rhetorical gestures suggest Liszt’s Feux follets Etude (the E-flat Minor from Op. 23) or varieties of the repeated notes in La Campanella (B-flat Major from Op. 23). Fiorentino’s diaphanous way with the F Sharp Minor (Op. 23, No. 1) owes something to Liszt’s La leggierezza Etude. For sheer Herculean stamina in block chords, try Fiorentino’s E Minor (Op. 32, No. 4). The C Minor (Op. 23, No 7) and the A-flat Major (Op. 23, No. 8) with their swirling right-hand figures suggest how Fiorentino might have sounded in the composer’s big Third Concerto. Capable of massive sound and delicate tracery, Fiorentino commands a palette as powerful as Horowitz, as tonally rich as Gilels. Pick your own favorites from the many, luxuriant colors offered here, the way you might savor a vintage wine at select moments.
— Gary Lemco