For those unfamiliar with the name and reputation of this artist we may turn to the Wikipedia resource: `Alessio Bax is an Italian born (1977 in Bari, Italy) pianist who graduated from the Bari conservatory at the age of 14. He won the Hamamatsu International Piano Competition in Japan at age 19 and the Leeds International Pianoforte Competition in 2000 after first participating in 1993. Bax was a member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center's CMS Two for three seasons, beginning in 2009. He also received the Avery Fisher Career Grant in 2009. He studied at Southern Methodist University near Dallas, Texas, where he is currently a faculty member of the university's Meadows School of the Arts.' As for his stature as a pianist of distinction he is rather widely praised by critics and loved by audiences for his dazzling skill and flair in performance as well as at times idiosyncratic interpretation.
This CD is centered on Rachmaninov and the major work here is the Preludes opus 23 of which there are ten. To this opus he adds Prelude in F major, Op.2, Canon in D minor, Prelude in E flat minor, Melodie in E major, Gavotte in D major, and Prelude in D minor, Op. Posthumous. Bax states on the album cover leaf that he envisions this program as being a collection of visions and landscapes, and nowhere is that more evident than in his transcriptions of songs such as Fragments, Lilacs, Daisies, Sorochintsy Fair: Hopak, Liebesleid, and Liebesfreud.
But it is in the transcription of Vocalise that Bax shines most brightly. His lingering over certain portions of the piece suggest the old recordings Rachmaninov himself left as his legacy. The central Preludes opus 23 may lack fire and energy other pianists find, but in his approach to the melodies of Rachmaninov he seems to understand the composer's wishes as well as any pianist performing today. He is an artist to watch. Grady Harp, October 12