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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



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Fryderyk CHOPIN(1810-1849)
Piano Concerto No.2 in F minor, Op.21 (1829-30) [33:09]
Piano Concerto No.1 in E minor, Op.11 (1830) [41:45]
 Vassily Primakov (piano)
Odense Symphony Orchestra/Paul Mann
rec. 13-16 May 2008, Carl NielsenHall, Odense, Denmark. DDD
 BRIDGE 9278 [75:04]
Experience Classicsonline

Why Vassily Primakov's name is not better known is beyond me, especially given the compelling evidence of this superb recording. The young Russian-American pianist's interpretations of the two Chopin piano concertos combine grace and fire in the service of unflagging intensity. The orchestral accompaniment matches his commitment phrase for phrase.
 
The symbiosis is most evident in slow movements. Throughout the F-minor concerto's second movement, for example, the Odense strings positively shimmer and shudder by turn; sample Primakov's entrance, his arpeggio rising gently from the soft cushion of strings only to find him pausing before taking flight. His beautifully executed melodic figurations are accompanied with stunningly subtle dynamic shadings, all leading up to the angst-ridden brass interjections of the movement's second half.
 
This is not to deny the vitality of the outer movements - far from it! The concluding "Vivace" sparkles and dances in a way achieved by very few, Primakov's involvement so great that we hear, presumably, his feet hitting the floor at moments of high drama. The winds' dialogues with the rest of the orchestra are brought off particularly well, forever altering my view of Chopin's orchestrational abilities. The same can be said of the E-minor concerto's rondo, the opening moments veering wildly between starkly impassioned unisons and chordal introspection under Mann's guidance.
 
Indeed, the first concerto, placed second on this disc, fares quite well. Mann and Primakov strike the perfect balance between Allegro and Maestoso in the epic first movement, complemented by Primakov, whose stately opening chords give way to a gorgeous cascade of descending sixths. All tension seems to resolve at the opening material's return, prefigured by a crescendo that demonstrates Primakov's raw power and wise virtuosity.
 
The recording is first-rate, which is as it should be in order to capture the complexities of Primakov's pianism. His readings of these concertos invoke shades of Martha Argerich with Charles Dutoit and of Christian Zimmermann's late-1990s Deutsche Grammophon traversal, but lacking the former's hectic air and the latter's fussiness. Primakov's virtuosity is tempered by his attention to detail, in which his approach might be compared favorably to Arthur Rubinstein's stereo RCA versions.
 
These are performances of extraordinary power and beauty. Bridge has given us one of the great Chopin recordings of recent times, and even more than on his Beethoven recital, Primakov shows himself to be a pianist well worth watching.

Marc Medwin
 
Extraordinary power and beauty ... see Full Review




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