This is an exotic item: a Russian pianist and
conductor, a South American orchestra and a Belgian classical
label. We have all the right ingredients for adventure. Do they
come together successfully?
Petukhov gives, as the Scots say, braw performances
seemingly unphased, in fact enthused, by the presence of an
audience and the evening's ambience of mixed expectations. His
technique is strong as might be expected from the winner of
the International Queen Elisabeth prize in 1975. The Belgian
competition may well explain the interest of Pavane. Did he
know that his performances on those two nights were to be recorded?
Petukhov plays unaffectedly and his unruly adrenalin
and Anissimov's mustang approach goads the orchestra onwards
to new heights and vistas. This really is very exciting stuff.
His piano tone is full, statuesque, stonily bell-resonant, kicking
down any fences that get in the way. Listen to the way at 5.09
of the allegro con fuoco of the First Concerto Petukhov
slows and accelerates with gruff nobility.
The Second is played in its original version
(the norm nowadays) and shows the same strengths (and weaknesses
although a low-level electronic buzz heard in the First Concerto
is now notable by its absence) as the First. Expectations must
have been high that evening some sixteen months after the same
forces had galvanised the Teatro Colón audience. The syncopated
locomotive playing of Petukhov at 14.54 of the first movement
is phenomenal. The audience noise is cut between first and second
movements so abruptly that I wonder if ill-judged purism excised
some instinctive inter-movement applause. I must mention Pablo
Sarari (violin) and Carlos Nozzi (cello) who, with Petukhov,
form the 'trio' of soloists whose contributions are to be heard
in the famously sentimental andante non troppo. They
stay just the right side of lachrymose. Anissimov lights a fire
under the orchestra and they play with that eager and hoarse
devilment we find in the First Concerto. I 'learnt' the Second
Concerto from the EMI-Melodiya Zhukhov recording which was exciting
but does not throw caution to damnation in quite the same the
way that Petukhov and his collaborators do.
Of course there is a price to be paid. We must
live with shuffling, coughs, clearings of throats and the usual
aural detritus of a live event. The orchestra is not voluptuous
of tone. Wiriness adds glassy chafed edge to the massed violins. Pavane's
annotator, Dr Marina Evseeva highlights the tiny acoustic and
mechanical faults. There is a low buzz in the distant background
of No. 1 - nothing to deter but I must mention it. At the end
of No. 1 the audience, quite rightly, roar their approval (as
they do for No. 2 complete with braying bravos).
What a wonderfully shocking event being in the
presence of Petukhov those Buenos Aires evenings in May and
September 1993 and 1994 must have been.
I am looking out for more Petukhov. I want to
hear more. So will you. I would love to hear him in Rachmaninov
3 and 4, Brahms 2, Bortkiewicz 2 and 3 and in Medtner 2 and
Do you look back on your early encounters with
music and wonder whether you will ever recapture that buzz,
that frisson. If you do then I urge you to get this disc. It
is something very special. I will not be the only one trying
to hear more Petukhov in anything. Track this one down and let
me know what you think.