Guillaume Vincent’s Rachmaninov preludes are
quite distinctive. The 21-year-old resists any pianistic groupthink
or conformity and recasts each prelude in individual ways. The famous
C sharp minor stretches out to an achingly slow pace, with massive pauses,
but I actually found myself enjoying this novel vision. Then the very
next, or the first in Op. 23, comes back urgent and constantly pressing
forward. There’s a very fine G minor march, clipped and brutal,
and the first of the Op. 32 preludes, in C, feels tamed, and less aggressive,
in a way that I like. The next-to-last prelude (G sharp minor) is more
or less flawless, and the last receives a very broad (6:26; Steven Osborne
takes 4:50) interpretation which feels almost Chopin-like in its softly
voiced healing power.
The problem with being totally original in your interpretations is that
not every idea is a success. The D major (Op. 23 No. 4) is a little
too plain, the E minor (Op. 32 No. 4) isn’t expressive enough
to feel properly epic, and my favorite prelude, B minor (Op. 32 No.
10) is pedestrian. Another highly idiosyncratic performer who sounds
like nobody else, Constance Keene, set down a B minor prelude of absolutely
titanic power during the course of her cycle (see a Youtube
of this performance). More modern, “safe” recommendations
include Eldar Nebolsin and Steven Osborne, while my other favorites
include Santiago Rodriguez and every recording by Sviatoslav Richter.
Still, Guillaume Vincent’s debut really is encouraging. At age
21, he’s already thinking very independently about this music,
and he’s not merely a rote technician, either. He has the potential
to develop into somebody with a lot of interesting ideas about the music
he plays, and the playing power to deliver them. I’m very glad
to welcome an artist like this to the scene.
By the way, Vincent’s preludes take 86 minutes to get through,
so Naïve divides them across two CDs which sell for the price of
one. His Steinway D sounds unusually beautiful, whether thanks to the
microphones, instrument or performer, making this one of those piano
releases you listen to when you want to remember just how deeply satisfying
the pure sound of a grand piano can be.