Master pianist Denis Kozhukhin's vibrant and sensitive account of Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, combined with Mendelssohn's sunny "Italian" symphony, will make for an energetic Sunday morning.
"Denis Kozhukhin gave a vibrant and sensitive account of Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, showing subtle varieties in pace and temperament and with understated power," praised online platform Bachtrack. Kozhukin isn't just anyone – he won the 2010 Queen Elisabeth Competition and performed in the Royal Concertgebouw's Master Pianists series three times. The Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini is so musically sophisticated it's almost like Rachmaninov tried to fit the notes for an entire piano concerto into this compact concertante work. The piece is so difficult that Rachmaninov himself, one of the greatest pianists ever, would get nervous about performing it.
Mendelssohn's Fourth Symphony, commonly known as "the Italian", grabs hold of its audience from the very first notes and doesn't let go. Its rhythmic drive combined with melodic splendour is irresistible. Mendelssohn composed the piece after a trip to Italy, where he said he had experienced the greatest joy of his life. The sun, nature and art overwhelmed the composer. He returned home brimming with energy, which he promptly channelled into a symphony.