Alfonso Soldano’s Rachmaninov And Debussy Transcriptions

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 7

The Italian pianist Alfonso Soldano’s robust sonority and rock-solid technique are tailor made for Rachmaninov, as proven by an earlier Divine Art release featuring the Op. 16 Moments musicaux and the monumental Piano Sonata No. 1. Soldano’s 15 original transcriptions of Rachmaninov songs convey a similar impression. Soldano expands the songs’ textures by filling out the piano parts with lush doublings, added inner voices, swirling filigree, and declamatory gestures in the form of full-bodied chords and darting octave sequences. In other words, he serves up the originals as if they were newly discovered Rachmaninov Preludes.

That said, Soldano’s arrangements sound thicker when compared alongside Earl Wild’s better known Rachmaninov song transcriptions. This is best revealed through two songs that the transcribers have in common. Wild’s intricate linear interweaving and agile deploying of registers throughout “In the Silence of the Secret Night” Op. 4 No. 3 and “How peaceful” Op. 21 No. 7, for example, shimmer with a mobile transparency that Soldano’s relatively conventional, conservative treatments don’t match.

That Soldano can accommodate and keep control over all of the component parts of Debussy’s Nocturnes within the limits of ten fingers is no small feat. Indeed, his sensitive textural layering throughout Sirènes is such that you hardly miss the wordless vocalists. Similarly, Nuages’ long sustained lines lose little in translation, so to speak. With Fêtes, however, Soldano’s faithfulness to the original text sometimes causes the music’s rhythmic momentum to bog down, particularly in the central march episode. For this reason I prefer the more pliable, fluid, and pianistically oriented Vladimir Leyetchkiss solo piano transcription. The production would have benefited from a warmer and more resonant ambience than the slightly dry and boxy engineering conveys.

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Recording Details:

Album Title: Metamorphoses
Reference Recording: None for this collection

  • Alfonso Soldano (piano)

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