Piano Concerto in a minor,
Piano Concerto no.2 in f minor, op.21
Jean-Yves Thibaudet (pianoforte),
Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra/Valery
Decca 467 093-2
The main assets of this issue are a pleasingly simple approach to the lyrical
sections and a notably collaborative conductor. Hear the dialogue between
piano and orchestra at the beginning of the development to the first movement
of the Chopin and reflect that at one time Chopin's accompaniments were looked
on as almost superfluous.
The problem is that in fortes Thibaudet's tone, while not exactly
hard, doesn't quite sing either, and he also sometimes allows accompanying
figures to become chunky and obtrusive. Sample the Chopin slow movement;
the playing is very attractive indeed in pianos, a little less so
as more tone is required, and the lumpiness of the left hand spoils the basically
very musical idea Thibaudet has of the piece.
Or take the second subject of the Grieg first movement. It begins beautifully
(very well prepared by Gergiev, too), but as it begins to surge forward the
left-hand triplets are heavy-handed. Compare either Solomon or Curzon at
this point to hear these triplets pulsating rather than chugging. Solomon's
singing tone in fortes also points up Thibaudet's other weakness, and Curzon's
performance should be studied by all pianists for his unique way of making
his semiquavers glitter without obtruding on the melodic line.
Still, the Solomon and Curzon recordings, not to speak of the classic Lipatti,
are hardly in modern sound, nor are their conductors (Menges and Fjeldstat)
as good as Gergiev, and this is mostly an attractive affair. I was
preparing to give it a fairly warm recommendation until I reached Thibaudet's
distinctly unmercurial response to Chopin's national dance rhythms in his
finale. After that, the most I can say is, if you particularly need this
slightly unusual coupling, you will get reasonably effective accounts of
the two works. I know that sounds like damning with faint praise, but the
best is the enemy of the good and this isn't quite the best.
Nice notes by Jeremy Siepmann, with French and German translations.