Rachmaninoff: Piano Trios Nos. 1 & 2. Vocalise
By Andrew Quint
September 1, 2019
It was my privilege to attend a day-long recording session for this Rachmaninoff program at Mechanics Hall in Worchester, Massachusetts. (See “Magic at Mechanics” in Issue 279.) Given the artists, repertoire, venue, and production team, I expected a good result. But I couldn’t have predicted what Reference has delivered with the final product. The Hermitage Piano Trio had been playing together for six years when, in September of 2017, it recorded Rachmaninoff’s two “élégiaque” piano trios plus an arrangement of the famous Vocalise for its first commercial release. The performances, created from complete movement run-throughs plus “fixes” taken from additional brief takes, are as intensely satisfying as a concert hall experience. Professor Keith O. Johnson set up his microphone array so that he could later generate a surround version of the recording, as well as stereo programs for both headphone and loudspeaker listening. How he knew what he was actually getting from listening to the two small monitors set up in a remote control room is beyond me. But in multichannel especially, this album is among the most convincingly realistic recordings I’ve ever heard. Not to be missed.