When I first put this
disc in the player, I wondered if I
would really enjoy it. I had just listened
to a performance of the Tchaikovsky
played by Sviatoslav Richter accompanied
by the Leningrad Philharmonic under
Evgeny Mravinsky. Obviously, the first
characteristic was a vast improvement
in the recording quality over the mono
Russian recording (Leningrad, 1957).
As the new disc got underway I was very
pleasantly surprised, as André
Watts, although not Richter, gave a
very proficient and exciting reading.
In addition, although the Atlanta Symphony
is not quite the match for the Leningrad
Philharmonic under Mravinsky, Yoel Levi
made a very creditable accompaniment
to his soloist, and the Telarc sound
quality is as good as it gets.
These Telarc re-issues
are sometimes enhanced by combining
two CDs on to one, or by adding additional
material, but this one appears to be
a straight re-release of the earlier
disc. This was originally issued in
the U.K. in 1995, and is still listed
in the RED catalogue at full price.
If you go searching for this one be
wary of old stocks in shops still at
full price. A further complication of
these Telarc re-issues is that they
normally retain the original, full price
catalogue number. I know that this allows
the company to re-cycle old stocks more
efficiently, but it can be confusing
for the consumer.
Both concertos are
given rip-roaring interpretations, and
I cannot imagine that anyone coming
to these performances for the first
time will be anything than thoroughly
delighted. André Watts certainly
proves the point to the criticism made
by Anton Rubinstein that Tchaikovsky’s
concerto was unplayable, and that he
should have not wasted manuscript paper
on such worthless, commonplace and awkward
work. Whilst I am fully aware that today
it does not cause technical problems
for wary performers, it takes a true
virtuoso to be able to throw it off
as Watts does here.
The concerto’s dedication
to Rubinstein was changed to Hans von
Bülow, who premiered it to a rapturous
audience in Boston, and then took it
to concert halls all over North America.
Rubinstein eventually toured with the
concerto which again met with acclaim
wherever it was played.
skill in interpretation applies equally
to the Saint-Saens, with its Bach-inspired
first movement moving inexorably to
a fine conclusion and completed by two
shorter movements, first a lilting Scherzo
and then a hell-for-leather finale.
Anton Rubinstein also
had his finger in the pie of this concerto
since he asked his friend, the French
composer, to produce something for him
to conduct at his first concert in Paris.
In seventeen days, this second concerto
was written and completed, and the first
performance was given by the composer
with Anton Rubinstein presiding.
This disc is recommended
highly, but check that you are not being
charged full price. Fans of this company
will not be in the least disappointed
with the playing and/or sound of this