The stellar Lortie-Mercier duo tackle early and late Rachmaninov in this passionate double bill: first, the Suite No. 1 for Two Pianos, a “series of musical pictures” written by the 20-year-old Rachmaninov in 1893 and originally given the title of Fantaisie-Tableaux. Written for Tchaikovsky, who agreed to attend the work’s premiere but sadly died just weeks prior, the Suite passes through vividly drawn scenes and shifting moods, bathed in the deeply felt emotion that the young Rachmaninov was already so adept at capturing.
If the Fantaisie-Tableaux shows a composer on the brink of an incredible career, the allusive Symphonic Dances are tinged with the bittersweet nostalgia of reminiscence. Completed in 1940, this would be Rachmaninov’s final major composition; in it, he calls back themes from his earlier works and references ecclesiastical chants, including the Dies Irae. This stirring two-piano version, first performed by Rachmaninov with Vladimir Horowitz in 1942, provides a poignant insight into the mindset of the great composer on the eve of his death, rendered with great attention to detail and electrifying brio by the Canadian duo.
Canadian pianists Louis Lortie and Hélène Mercier have been friends and collaborators since their early teenage years. Their incredible rapport, forged over decades, is immediately apparent in their music: they are always in lockstep with one another, working perfectly in tandem to realize a cohesive whole.
The Lortie-Mercier Duo at Montreal's Bourgie Hall