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Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30 (1909)
Six Moments Musicaux, Op. 16 (1896)
Joyce Hatto (piano)
National Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra/René Köhler
Recorded in St. Mark’s Church, Croydon, UK., July 1998 and April 1999
CONCERT ARTIST/FIDELIO RECORDINGS CACD9217-2 [71.44]

This item has been withdrawn from sale as it is no longer thought to have been played by Joyce Hatto.

It is possible the pianist is Yefim Bronfman with the London Philharmonic under Salonen

Joyce Hatto is a fervent and impressive exponent of the Russian literature as she has shown elsewhere in her recent and extensive series of discs for Concert Artist. Here she takes on one of the veritable peaks of the piano repertoire and emerges triumphant. The Third Concerto, like the Paganini Variations, is not a piece much recorded by women (with several notable and obvious exceptions, Argerich, Cecile Ousset and de Larrocha being currently prominent but Hatto’s British colleague Moura Lympany was once strongly associated with it). But Hatto has never flinched from exploration of the repertoire, from Bach to Bax and beyond and she shows no fear here.

She and conductor René Köhler take a relatively relaxed tempo in the opening movement that is notable for Hatto’s articulacy and tonal beauty. There is also a powerful sense of incipient explosive energy in the cadential passage – sometimes even almost too much; this is no polite performance. Hatto has a wide dynamic range and uses it for musical, never self-regarding, reasons, and is constantly exciting. Maybe the recording fudges the clarity of her downward runs from time to time but it never obscures some really formidable interpretive power. The recording itself is not over subtle; the distant balance means that orchestral counter themes sometimes get muddied or half lost in the acoustic but the playing itself here is commanding and impressive. In the second movement Hatto makes the most of the potential for contrasts, employs her still tremendous technique to fruitful ends, lavishing plenty of expressive playing even at moments of highest digital demand. Her sense of structural control in the finale is characterful and absolute; she can inflect the line with mordant wit and the balance between piano and orchestra is good. At moments of optimum expressive pointing one still feels a powerful directional sense from her and as the movement gathers steam she is mightily impressive, the peroration of the movement galvanic in its success. This performance is yet more evidence of Joyce Hatto’s status in the romantic repertoire and I’ll be reviewing her recordings of the First and Fourth Concertos soon.

She includes the Op 16 Moments musicaux as a far from insignificant filler. Her figuration in the central passage of the B flat minor is full of filigree clarity, her rolled chords lavished with an auburn beauty, the contrastive sonorities and colouristic potential aptly delineated. The restless chromatic volatility of the E flat minor, its surge and drama, is perfectly understood and the ripeness and effulgence of the B minor presented with affectionate amplitude. When it comes to passionate drive, though, passionate drive there is a-plenty; listen to her in the E minor or in the bell peals of the concluding C major. Some marvellously sensitive playing here.

Her stylistic and evocative affinities with this School mark out Joyce Hatto as one of the most convincing exponents around. Assurance and sensitivity are precious gifts and Hatto possesses them in abundance.

Jonathan Woolf

See also review by William Hedley

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