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Rachmaninoff: the most unexpected comeback yet?

test 7 April 2009

US: The Zenph Studios team (pictured) is to stage a ‘re-performance’ of classic works by legendary Russian pianist and composer Sergei Rachmaninoff, writes David Davies. Following earlier recreations of performances by Glenn Gould and Art Tatum, specialist software company Zenph Studios will realise its latest project at Peace College’s Kenan Recital Hall in Raleigh, North Carolina, on 14 April.

The Rachmaninoff re-performance – taking place approximately 100 years after the composer’s first US recital, and 66 since he passed away – will be recorded by Steve Epstein and Richard King for future release by Sony BMG Masterworks, possibly as a Hybrid SACD. The programme will incorporate pieces drawn from every phase of Rachmaninoff’s recording career.

Part of the inspiration for the latest Zenph project was the long-held desire of co-founder John Q Walker – who once took piano tuition from one of the composer’s two mature students – to witness Rachmaninoff in the concert arena. "Now we can hear him play live again – it just involves a lot of technology!" Walker tells PSN-e.

Among the hosts of the recital will be Richard Shepherd, the creator of the hardware technology used in the onstage Steinway concert grand.

Inevitably, the blend of art and science pursued by Zenph has attracted criticism from some musical purists, but Walker insists that the company is working in "the most loving, respectful way. In the case of Rachmaninoff, you get to hear the way he played, and it’s incredibly human. There are a few pieces where you can tell that he is tired – it’s not a negative thing, it’s just something that you can recognise if you play the piano. Personally, I revel in those sorts of details."

In the long-run, Zenph hopes to bring a variety of other instruments into the process, with the ultimate intention of realising complete ensembles. In the short-term, Walker harbours notions of at least one possible event that seems destined to attract the attention of the global media.

"I understand that Barack Obama is a fan of Oscar Peterson, so you never know, maybe we could hold a Peterson re-performance at the White House_"

IMAGE CREDIT: Mark Manring

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