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Anthony Clarke
Limelight, November 2007

This immediately becomes one of my favourite recordings. Rachmaninov’s Preludes are rarely heard or played as a single entity, perhaps because their composition spanned 45 years.

Rachmaninov most probably never intended that all 24 of these short pieces should be heard as a single collection, as we are used to hearing the more familiar Chopin preludes. But these miniatures demand to be heard as a complete suite when we are given such accomplished playing as this. The kaleidoscopic shifts of rhythm and emotion are simply breathtaking.

Pianist Eldar Nebolsin was born in Tashkent in 1974, and has been heard widely around the world, including both Melbourne and Sydney. He won the first Richter International Piano Competition in Moscow just two years ago—a telling victory, given that Richter had made these preludes his own.

However, Richter never gave us a complete set of the Preludes; nor did Rachmaninov. But a direct comparison with some of the preludes recorded by Richter and Rachmaninov shows that Nebolsin strikes a middle-ground between Richter’s unabashed modern Romanticism and Rachmaninov’s purposefully less emotional, more rhythmically driven performances.

There might be performances of individual preludes which we’ve grown to prefer. But taken as a coherent whole, this is an impressive recording. It’s astonishing to reflect that in his own lifetime, Rachmaninov was more renowned as a performer than a composer. Recordings such as this one confirm he was a modern master, with his innate Romantic gift for melody tempered by the motor-rhythms of the machine-age he grew up in.

Peter J. Rabinowitz
Fanfare, November 2007

The highest compliment that may be paid Nebolsin’s technique is that, in its complete subordination to the music, one is simply never aware of it. His sound is always beautiful, whether in the transparency of the most massive fortissimos or in the rainbow of subtly contrasted pianissimos. If the soaring op. 23/2 takes flight effortlessly, its fierce left-hand figurations never obtrude on the ebb and flow of exultant musical substance. The exquisite op. 23/10 breathes all the freshness of dew on delicate blossoms opening to the morning sun; the voice leading is simply gorgeous. The great B-Minor Prelude (op. 32/10) begins with a heart-rending sadness, so immobilized and still that the subsequent chordal section assumes an awesome grandeur of uncanny power and eloquence. © 2007 Fanfare Read complete review

American Record Guide, October 2007

Naxos has done it again. Nebolsin is a Russian pianist with all of the technical skills necessary to handle this difficult music. More important is his musical ability to make far more of the Preludes than a mere splattering of notes and empty bravura. While I have heard more thrilling execution, with greater abandon, most all of these performances are fully satisfying.

Still, there is a certain lack of sparkle in some of the passagework. The playing is always exceptionally clean, and use of the pedal exemplary, but can anything replace Rachmaninoff himself in this repertory?

The famous (or some might say, infamous) C-sharp minor Prelude finds the pianist taking all the time in the world after the first three oppressive notes. This soon dissipates, and the performance continues with a depth of phrasing to make all listeners take note. The popular G-minor Prelude is impressive, though Ashkenazy makes it more impetuous. With his performance reissued on a lower price two-disc-set, the attractions of this newcomer are somewhat lessened. Ashkenazy is also a more refined player than Nebolsin.

As a single CD with all of the Preludes in excellent sound, this is a bargain and will share prime space alongside the Ashkenazy. Other impressive performances have been deleted; there is no need to tantalize by making reference to them. Notes by Keith Anderson are decent, if somewhat brief.

Scott Cantrell
The Dallas Morning News, June 2007

Grade: A

RICH RANGE: Spanning 4 ½ decades, the two sets of piano preludes and the early Prelude in C-sharp minor by Rachmaninoff (or Rachmaninov, as this label spells it) span a similarly wide range of textures and soul-states. Tender nostalgia brushes cheeks with turbulence, fireworks with Old World finery. And are there three more sublime minutes in the entire piano repertory than the G major Prelude (Op. 32, No. 5)?

AUTHORITY: Eldar Nebolsin, born in 1974 in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent, has this music in his blood. He captures its nobility as well as its passion, delicacy as well as dazzle. There's virtuosity and power aplenty, but also a keen sense of emotional tensions and resolutions. And his big, bass-rich tone is a thing of wonder.

BOTTOM LINE: One of the finest Rachmaninoff CDs to come along in a while. Highly recommended.

Jeff Simons
The Buffalo News, June 2007

Eldar Nebolsin first came to my attention in 1994, when the pianist (19 at the time) recorded an exciting and energetic Chopin B minor sonata for Decca. Judging from his Rachmaninov Preludes, recorded in January 2007, Nebolsin has evolved from an unbridled keyboard whiz into a thoughtful artist who channels his virtuosity toward serving the music. He takes his sweet time over the C-sharp minor Prelude's opening section, yet his keen sense of nuance and timing not only prevents the music from dragging but also sets up a contrasting context for the torrential middle section that follows.

Nebolsin hits on a tempo for the B-flat major Prelude that addresses the grandeur Rachmaninov intends by his Maestoso directive yet also allows the thick climactic chords to fully sing out without slowing down the pulse. In an era where young pianists stretch out the B minor Prelude until its backbone crumbles, Nebolsin's lilting fluidity is both a corrective and a tonic.

The steady gait Nebolsin favors in the G-sharp minor reveals this popular prelude in an uncommonly urgent light, although the G major's curvaceously shaped phrases and sensitive harmonic pointing bear more than a few welcome traces of Horowitzian intoxicants. Surprisingly, the C major and C minor Preludes make a labored, heavy-handed impression and are bogged down by swirling passagework that fails to scintillate and soar. You could imagine suppler, more transparent handling of the D major's overlapping textures by clicking your ruby slippers and repeating the mantra "Sviatoslav Richter" 500 times. Still and all, the budget price and excellent engineering may attract collectors wishing to supplement the mid-price Ashkenazy reference edition. Thanks to Naxos for putting Eldar Nebolsin back on the discographical radar.

Jed Distler, June 2007

a new budget-priced disc by by young Russian pianist Eldar Nebolsin of Rachmaninov’s Preludes complete is close to stunning. Nebolsin’s is a truly exceptional excursion into the music of Rachmaninov, one of the most-played composers by keyboard gymnasts eager to unleash digital thunder and lightning. Young (33-year-old) Nebolsin has won his share of prizes, but his complete Rachmaninov preludes—including that warhorse in C-sharp minor, Op.3 No. 2—reveals that other Rachmaninov, not the deviser of showpieces but that tragic conservative and remarkable composer magnificently trapped out of his time.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, May 2007

It will be the fabulous sound of this disc that will first grip your attention, coming as close as I suppose we will ever get to the reality of bringing the instrument into your room. And certainly if you want a deeply thought-through reading of the two big sets of Preludes, this Tashkent-born pianist, Eldar Nebolsin, is a performance that will stand the stand the test of time, crashing around the piano seeking hallow excitement not part of his make-up. Indeed it will be the quiet preludes - which are in the majority - by which you will remember this disc, though when faced with finger-knotting tempos, as in the opening of the opus 32, he is as mercurial as any on disc. I equally admire how he shapes the whole of each set, not going for the quick fix that takes one prelude at a time. Sample, for instance, the Chopinesque tracery of the fourth of opus 23, or the cold wind that blows through the seventh of opus 32 to hear the myriad of dynamics he can generate. The famous C sharp minor, which opens the disc, does not go for cheap thrills, and you arrive at the end of the journey with a life-reaffirming Allegro. There is a long list of alternatives on CD, including a rather old sounding Naxos version from Idil Biret. Many have their virtues, but for my money this new release is one I can live with.

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