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Paul Turok
Turok’s Choice, December 2010

This South African company has releases by several artists, but South African pianist Nina Schumann and Portuguese pianist Luís Magalhães (a husband-and-wife two-piano team) have recorded Rachmaninov’s complete music for two pianos (two Suites, Russian Rhapsody, Prelude in C# minor [arr. by the composer], Polka Italienne [arr. by Ada Brant], Symphonic Dances [arr. by the composer], Six Morceaux) (103 903-9, two discs). They play very well, technically, with amazingly clean textures—you hear every note—and with a delightful rhythmic kick. If there is anything their playing lacks, it is emotion. Rachmaninov’s music is full of feeling, though you wouldn’t know it from these performances. Yet, a cold Rachmaninov is of value too, for he was a much better composer technically that he is given credit for, and these performances let you hear what he put into his pieces.

James Harrington
American Record Guide, November 2010

With an outstanding debut release, this husband-wife team bursts onto the scene with Rachmaninoff performances that rival ones by the greatest artists of our time. They have the kind of precision that is rarely heard these days and an attention to detail that allowed me to hear new things in works I have known for 40 years (and a few I have learned and publicly performed). Even in the few places where I might quibble with their artistic choices, their interpretations work well musically and are certainly presented effectively.

The two-piano works are all here; Suites 1 and 2, Symphonic Dances, Russian Rhapsody, and the Prelude in C-sharp minor arrangement by the composer. To these are added a two-piano arrangement of the Polka Italienne by Ada Brant and the Six Morceaux for Piano Duet, Op. 11. Technically, you might argue that all of the concertos exist as two-piano works, but those are not here, nor have they ever been recorded since they are really for rehearsal and learning.

The competition in the two-piano works is formidable, led by Ashkenazy-Previn and Argerich-Freire, and I must say that for a basic building block of a Rachmaninoff CD collection, this set by Schumann-Magalhaes might have just edged into first place. Their blistering tempos in the Waltz and Tarantella of Suite 2 does indeed rival Argerich and Freire, who might retain a performance edge, but the superior sonics of the TwoPianists disc and the glorious sound of their Bosendorfer pianos makes this the logical choice.

And the Symphonic Dances by Ashkenazy and Previn is still at the top, but only by a hair. Again the sound of the new disc versus one 25–30 years older does show. The dead-on ensemble of the young team is so good, they even take a moment here and there to show off. The slight retards in the middle of the Suite 2 Waltz are overdone a bit and stretched to their limit as two people at two pianos sound truly as one. It makes the accelerando to the original Presto tempo even more exciting, with again not a single note out of place as they get faster and faster in perfect ensemble. I will go out of my way to catch a performance of theirs. They are off to a great start, so let’s hope for many more records like this., September 2010

TwoPianists Records is the brainchild of the wife-and-husband team of Nina Schumann and Luis Magalhães, who are not only highly skilled pianists but also very intelligent pickers of repertoire. They say they simply want to offer CDs of music that has inspired them, and that may well be so, but in the process, they are unearthing some wonderful and sadly neglected two-piano works. Their recording of Rachmaninoff’s complete works for two pianos is a perfect example. It includes the very rarely heard two-piano version of the composer’s final completed piece, the Symphonic Dances, whose sometimes lumbering, sometimes eerie rhythms come through very effectively in this recording. The two-CD set also includes both suites for two pianos (op. 5 and op. 17), the Six Morceaux, Op. 11, and arrangements of several short works—most notably the famous Prelude in C-sharp minor, in an arrangement by Rachmaninoff himself (also here are an Ada Brant arrangement of Polka Italienne and Maurice Hinson’s version of the posthumous Russian Rhapsody). This is all interesting music that shows some sides of Rachmaninoff’s pianism that are not apparent from his concertos, and everything is quite well played and recorded.

Mark Tanner
International Record Review, November 2008

A new recording of Rachmaninov’s complete works for two pianos is always an eye-opener and this CD from Nina Schumann and Luis Magalhães, which also includes an interesting DVD, does not disappoint. Of the two Suites I particularly liked the second, not just because of the duo’s spectacularly flighty exposition of the Valse, a presto which is rendered all the more impactful by the relaxed sway of its ‘big tune’, but because of its close to impeccable alignment of fingerwork, which keeps buoyant the all-important rhythmic dimension while never assailing the ear with uninvited brashness. The Symphonic Dances started life in the form it appears on the disc, and its demands are as daunting for this ensemble as in the orchestral version. Schumann and Magalhães are fully equipped for the task, which speaks as highly of their imagination for the music’s ever-altering temporal terrain as of their pianism per se. The finale, a most exacting movement taking the form of Lento assai—Allegro Vivace, is a treatise in duo playing, always mindful of the darker episodes but equally responsive to the music’s fleeting moments of levity. The duo should be pleased with their rendition of the Six Morceaux, Op. 11, for the ‘scherzo’ growls and guffaws with terrific pizzazz while the ‘valse’ is as poetic as it is dynamic. This set, sensitively recorded and thoughtfully put together, deserves great success.

Louis Heyneman
Die Burger, October 2007

Rachmaninoff left his homeland and soon became an international music figure. But I doubt he would have dreamt that his legacy would travel so quickly to the southern point of Africa. It is barely one generation later and his complete works for two pianos are released in Stellenbosch, and if today the composer heard this excellent recording, he would certainly be proud. Nina Schumann and her husband, Portuguese-born pianist Luis Magalhães, recorded an ambitious program with great flair and artistic empathy. One realizes that even the best composers can only put beautiful melody, interesting harmony and rhythmic patterns on paper. It is still the performer who must understand and transmit the essence of the musical feeling…with the Symphonic Dances it is clear that the duo understands not only the detail, but also the greater architectonic structure.

Bernardo Mariano
Diário de Notícias, June 2006

The interpretations of Schumann and Magalhães are extremely solid: the ensemble is very well coordinated and the balance/equilibrium of the duo is a rule. Thanks to their interpretations, the works here presented sound like one piano with the power and capabilities of two

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