KONZERT FUER KLAVIER 3 CD, Import
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A fascinating release that views Prokofiev through Romantic lenses and Rachmaninov through modernist ones, to the benefit of both works. The Rachmaninov Third is a virtuoso warhorse which Pletnev sails through with aplomb. His dazzling technique is everywhere in evidence, and in stripping the piece of the sentimental overlay so often imposed upon it, he makes it a tougher, tighter work. In the go-for-broke last movement, Pletnev plays with astounding virtuosity and in the concertos's more lyrical moments he lavishes sufficient poetry and full-bodied tone to bring out those aspects as well. He plays the longer and more difficult of Rachmaninov's first movement cadenzas. Rostropovitch and the crack Russian orchestra provided a bed of full-blooded Romanticism as the framework for Pletnev's explorations, and they bring a similar approach to the Prokofiev. There, Pletnev's articulation at fast speeds is nothing short of amazing, as is the full-bodied tone he brings to a work thats often played with a shallow, leaner tone. Here again, the lyrical parts come off as well as the more overtly virtuosic ones. There are excellent performances of both works available from artists like Argerich, Ashkenazy, and others, but this one ranks among the best. --Dan Davis
Urgently recommended, as Jerry Dubins would say.
* I've always considered Rachmaninov a "Classical romantic". His "big tunes" notwithstanding, he's less overtly emotional than Brahms, a "Romantic classicist".
I don't know why certain reviewers claim that Pletnev turns the Prokofiev into a romantic work and the Rachmaninov into a modernist one. True, his touch in the Rachmaninov is lighter and less bangy than the usual frontal assault -- Volodos is equally elegant. Pletnev softens the witty quirkiness of the Prokofiev, but that's not romantic to my ears, just less sharp-edged. Rostropovich misses a lot of opportunities in his easy-going approach to the accompaniment. A truly great reading of either work needs inspired conducting, and we don't get that here.
DG realizes that their soloist is the whole show; they shove the piano in our faces, leaving orchestral detail as almost an afterthought. That's a shame, particulalry in the Prokofiev, with its spiky woodwind writing, but Rostropovich isn't doing anything special on the podium, not when you consider the pairing of Szell andd Graffman, who set off icy fireworks in their dazzling Prokofiev Third.
In all, I was gripped by Pletnev's originality, but the overall impact of this CD wasn't strong enough to get me on my feet cheering.
Rachmaninov wrote his 3rd piano concerto as a virtuoso piece with which he hoped to conquer mostly American audiences - off course, as with any work of his this is not a mere showpiece for the pianist but is also brilliantly orchestrated and beautifuly annotated. But, there is no doubt that the music works around the piano soloist. So - Pletnev and Rostropovich give more than usual consideration to the orchestra and at parts the piano merely becomes another instrument rather than the soloist - added to Pletnev's light tone, this is a performance where honors and demeanors are shared by soloist, conductor, and orchestra. Many passages come off beautifuly while in others you just cant help yourself from wishing a more extrovert piano performance. Played in this manner, the rachmaninov 3rd piano concerto is transformed into a symphony with a piano part. At times this is fascinating, and then also frustrating. This is not an average performance.
This approach works much better in the Prokofiev. Here for once, both the orchestra and the piano part seem to lose their traditional motoric and percussive nature and instead we are presented with an emotionaly charged yet subtle performance where the understanding between the performers is always apparent. Also - result of this approach is that for once, Prokofiev's 3rd piano concerto is portrayed as full of drama, anguish, and finaly - triumph. The symphonic approach here allows for this concerto for once to not become episodic - rather, all the parts and variations seem to be integrated and eveolve logicaly. Pletnev's tone and technique is in top form throughout the whole disc, but in the prokofiev it becomes simply amazing. It is not a matter of just speed and power, rather than submission to a musical idea that seems to work perfectly.
Overall, this is a disc no serious collector should do without - its a doccument of 2 very serious musicians at the top of their form presenting music in a manner which is both fresh and respectfull of the music. This approach may not always please those who have preconceived notions of how these works should be played, but there is no denying that it is presented in an honest, professional, and inspired manner.