Celebrating 25 Years of Excellence

Rachmaninoff: Préludes, Opp. 23 & 32


Catalogue No: SOMMCD 0143
Release Date: 2015-01-01
Number of Discs: 1
EAN/UPC: 748871014329
Liner Notes

Rachmaninov: The Complete Preludes

Prelude Op. 3 No. 2 in C sharp minor
Preludes Op. 23
Preludes Op. 32

Leon McCawley, piano

The Ten Preludes Op. 23, the Op. 3 Prelude and the Thirteen Preludes Op. 32 represent all twenty -four major and minor keys and are considered to be among Rachmaninov’s best works for solo piano. The success of his first Prelude proved to be double-edged. It became so popular that it travelled round the world to the point where in the 1920s in New York he heard the Paul Whiteman Band play a jazz version and as a touring virtuoso he would not be allowed to leave without playing it as an encore.  His Ten preludes Op. 23 were composed in a burst of creativity in the year that the he married his beloved cousin Natalia. In 1910, at the very height of his powers, Rachmaninov completed his set of 24 Preludes with a final group of 13 comprising his Opus 32.


The Preludes have the charm, lyricism and nostalgic melancholy intrinsic to Rachmaninov. They can be played individually or as separate sets but hearing them in sequence demonstrates a rarely perceived but always present aspect of this great pianist composer.

Leon McCawley said:

I’m delighted to be releasing my 5th disc for Somm Recordings. Following discs of Chopin, Barber, Brahms and Schumann, this time I am turning to the Complete Preludes of Rachmaninov. Rachmaninov is a pianist composer that is very close to my heart and features regularly in my recitals and concerto performances. Not only am I drawn to his music but also his great pianism, (thanks to the recordings we have available), the beautiful transparency of his playing that displays so much polyphonic clarity and wondrous depth of tone with never a hint of cloying sentimentality. His simplicity and subtle rubato is a lesson in how to play the piano with sophistication and artistry and how to build musical climaxes so effectively.

The 24 Preludes are a wonderfully contrasting set of works: miniatures that are unmistakably full of Russian pathos and passion. The Russian bells are always ringing and singing. Some of the Preludes are composed on an incredibly large scale, in particular the cavernous Op. 32 No. 4; others are delightfully small-scale, charming and graceful. But all have a purpose, or what Rachmaninov called “the point”: an architectural rise and fall which has to be identified in each piece and clearly projected to the listener. ”

Chopin Piano Music SOMMCD 0103)

Here is one of the most beautiful performances of Chopin’s piano music I have encountered. It is absolutely perfect.”  The Glasgow Sunday Herald.

(Brahms Piano Music SOMMCD 0116)

“It is difficult to know whether McCawley’s refined piano playing, his natural yet cultivated musicality or his boundless imagination warrant the greater praise. You must hear the recording, but be warned: you may never want to hear another pianist play Op. 118.”  International Record Review

(Barber – the Solo Piano Music SOMMCD 0108)

Leon McCawley’s reading of Barber’s solo piano works is a superb collection, admirably and intelligently delivered. McCawley delivers everything magnificently. This is now the CD to get of Barber’s piano music.” Peter Dickinson, Critics’ Choice 2011, Gramophone.

Leon McCawley
English pianist Leon McCawley leapt into prominence when he won both First Prize in the International Beethoven Piano Competition in Vienna and Second Prize in the Leeds International Piano Competition at the age of nineteen in 1993.

Since then, McCawley has given highly acclaimed recitals that include London’s Wigmore Hall and Queen Elizabeth Hall, Berlin Konzerthaus, Lincoln Center New York, Prague Rudolfinum and Vienna Musikverein. McCawley performs frequently with many of the top British orchestras and has performed several times at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall. He broadcasts regularly on BBC Radio 3 in recital and with many of the BBC orchestras. Further afield he has performed with Cincinnati Symphony, Dallas Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, Netherlands Philharmonic, Philhadelphia Orchestra and Vienna Symphony among many others. Conductors he has worked with include Daniele Gatti, Paavo Järvi, Kurt Masur and Simon Rattle.

McCawley’s wide-ranging discography has received many accolades including two “Editor’s Choice” awards in Gramophone and a Diapason d’Or for his boxed set of The Complete Mozart Piano Sonatas and more recently, a Gramophone Critic’s Choice 2011 for his recording of Barber Piano Music for SOMM.

McCawley studied at Chetham’s School of Music, Manchester with Heather Slade-Lipkin and at the Curtis Institute of Music with Eleanor Sokoloff. He also worked with Nina Milkina in London.

Leon McCawley is a professor of piano at London’s Royal College of Music and is married to the painter, Anna Hyunsook Paik.

On This Recording

  1. Morceaux de fantaisie: Morceaux de fantaisie, Op. 3: No. 2. Prelude in C-Sharp Minor
  2. 10 Preludes: No. 1 in F-Sharp Minor
  3. 10 Preludes: No. 2 in B-Flat Major
  4. 10 Preludes: No. 3 in D Minor
  5. 10 Preludes: No. 4 in D Major
  6. 10 Preludes: No. 5 in G Minor
  7. 10 Preludes: No. 6 in E-Flat Major
  8. 10 Preludes: No. 7 in C Minor
  9. 10 Preludes: No. 8 in A-Flat Major
  10. 10 Preludes: No. 9 in E-Flat Minor
  11. 10 Preludes: No. 10 in G-Flat Major
  12. 13 Preludes: No. 1 in C Major
  13. 13 Preludes: No. 2 in B-Flat Minor
  14. 13 Preludes: No. 3 in E Major
  15. 13 Preludes: No. 4 in E Minor
  16. 13 Preludes: No. 5 in G Major
  17. 13 Preludes: No. 6 in F Minor
  18. 13 Preludes: No. 7 in F Major
  19. 13 Preludes: No. 8 in A Minor
  20. 13 Preludes: No. 9 in A Major
  21. 13 Preludes: No. 10 in B Minor
  22. 13 Preludes: No. 11 in B Major
  23. 13 Preludes: No. 12 in G-Sharp Minor
  24. 13 Preludes: No. 13 in D-Flat Major