Klassik Com: Triple 5 Stars April 2012; Limelight Magazine: "These two major works from Rachmaninov’s last decade form a substantial and varied program, given here in excellent performances and recorded in very vivid Super Audio format. Thirty-something Russian virtuoso Yevgeny Sudbin gives a dashing account of the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, investing the work with all the requisite drama, colour and wit.".
When Sergei Rachmaninov composed his Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini in 1934, it was after an almost complete seven-year silence - so complete that he was thought to have renounced composing. Nevertheless, the Rhapsody was finished in only seven weeks, with a speed that was possibly stimulated by Paganini's theme itself; taken from the 24th Caprice for solo violin it had already been used by Schumann, Liszt, Brahms and Szymanowski and is ideal for variation. Rachmaninov's Rhapsody consists of twenty-four continuous variations, of which the 18th has become so popular that it is often included separately in compilations of 'classical favourites'. The variations fall into larger sections, forming a structure which has caused the work to be called 'Rachmaninov's Fifth Piano Concerto'. The soloist on the present recording is Yevgeny Sudbin, whose highly acclaimed discography includes a Rachmaninov solo recital, as well as a recording of the Fourth Piano Concerto described in BBC Music Magazine as an ' exhilarating, barnstorming, spine-tingling performance'. The warm reception that the Rhapsody received no doubt spurred Rachmaninov on to the composition of his Third Symphony. The work of a reluctant exile from his native Russia, its themes often have a marked Russian character, but are treated with great ambiguity. One example is the 'motto theme' which is heard at the very opening of the symphony, but which cannot be heard for what it really is until the finale (and then only fleetingly): a variant of the Dies iræ theme, which the composer used so often - for instance in the Rhapsody - as a symbol of mortality. With this disc, Lan Shui and his Singapore Symphony Orchestra follow up on their 2008 recording of the composer's Symphony No.2, which impressed critics around the world, for instance on the website Klassik Heute: 'Lan Shui allows himself to be guided by the music itself, by its arcs, meanderings, sudden impulses, melancholies and triumphs, and at the same time propels his marvellous orchestra to musical heights from which the entire panorama of this work can be perceived.'