Virtuoso pianist plays mind-bending solo piano arrangement of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2

17 March 2023, 21:46 | Updated: 21 March 2023, 07:37

Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 2… for solo piano! | Arsha Kaviani | Classic FM

By Kyle Macdonald

A Rachmaninov concerto movement, with soaring orchestral lines, and breathless piano notes, but it’s all on a single instrument. Here’s a performance that is a true feat of musicianship and dexterity.

From iconic opening chords to the ecstatic bursts from the orchestra, Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 is a much-loved favourite for piano and orchestra.

The masterpiece has been now voted to number one eight times in the Classic FM Hall of Fame and named the nation’s favourite classical piece.

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But few would have heard its powerful first movement with quite so much intimacy, nor mind-blowing invention and musical ingenuity.

The arrangement and performance is by rising star, British-Iranian pianist Arsha Kaviani. Watch it above, and prepare to be amazed by what the young pianist archives.

Arsha Kaviani plays Rachmaninov
Arsha Kaviani plays Rachmaninov. Picture: Classic FM / Getty

The background to how this remarkable arrangement and performance came to be, is fascinating too.

Arsha Kaviani was born in Dubai in 1990, to parents who had moved from Iran in the 1970s. “Growing up in Dubai in the late 1990s and early 2000s – it was something of a classical music desert,” Kaviani told Classic FM.

“There were no classical CD stores or libraries with great recordings for me to buy or listen to, and this was before you could just go to YouTube or Spotify.

“We had a piano and home and I could print our sheet music from the Internet. If I wanted to hear what a Rachmaninov or Nikolai Medtner concerto sounded like, I had to print it out and play the solo parts and the orchestral parts all myself.

“So from the very earliest years, I was almost having to arrange big symphonic works for solo piano, just out of necessity and to satisfy my curiosity about this amazing music that I had no other access to.”

And so, this full concerto arrangement for one piano, is how music has always been for Kaviani.

The pianist also notes that Rachmaninov’s love of long, singing melodies in the orchestra and rapid piano figurations over the top, helped the concerto transfer very naturally to solo keyboard.

Read more: Best Rachmaninov works: 10 of the composer’s greatest pieces of music

This performance was recorded in London’s Kings Place concert hall, one of the UK capital’s leading places of chamber music and jazz.

Kaviani’s playing has drawn praise from legendary pianists of our time including Krystian Zimerman, Daniel Barenboim and Sir Stephen Hough, who has termed him “a fearless and adventurous pianist”.

And we now all know there’s certainly no fear when confronted by a complete Rachmaninov symphonic score and a solo piano...

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