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Peter Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 23 (1874-5) [35:48]
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)

Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16 (1869) [30:45]
Simon Tedeschi (piano)
The Queensland Orchestra/Richard Bonynge
rec. Studio 420, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Brisbane, 8-11 February 2005.
ABC CLASSICS 476 8071 [66:49]

The booklet for this CD begins with a couple of paragraphs by Richard Bonynge, the best-known of the participants. It is dated 2005, and in it he tells us that as a young pianist he once played the Greig Concerto, "almost sixty years ago ... in the Sydney Town Hall". He adds: "I have heard it only rarely since then ... To someone who has spent his life in the opera house, these great masterpieces of Tchaikovsky and Grieg overwhelm me with their freshness and vitality. I had nearly forgotten what wondrous works they are".

The trouble, of course, is that many of us will have heard these two concertos rather more often than maestro Bonynge appears to have done. If we have "forgotten what wondrous works they are" it is more likely to be because of over-familiarity than anything else. If we have been collectors of CDs for any length of time we are likely already to possess recordings of both works. We might, indeed, possess one or more of some of the great recordings of these concertos – of the Tchaikovsky by, say, Horowitz, Gilels, Richter or van Cliburn, or of the Grieg by, for example, Perahia, Lupu or Kovacevich (these are highly selective lists). A new recording which couples these two concertos, especially one featuring a relatively little-known pianist, will inevitably struggle for attention – both because of our familiarity with the works and because there are already so many good recordings of both.

Simon Tedeschi was born in Sydney in 1981 and studied in Australia and London with Noretta Conci. He has won a good many prizes and toured fairly extensively. On the evidence of this recording he brings an assured technique to his performances, as well as an obvious musical intelligence. These are thoroughly competent, assured performances; the faster movements are played with commitment and panache, the slow movements are properly, and unexaggeratedly, poetic. The lyrical opening of the Grieg adagio is particularly well played, and something like full justice is done to the wistful final theme of the third movement. In the Tchaikovsky the long melodic line of the andantino is attractively shaped and there is plenty of energy in the final allegro.

Bonynge is a wholly sympathetic and utterly professional partner, and the Queensland Orchestra lets no one down. The recorded sound is vivid and bright; there are, though, moments when the piano is excessively fore-grounded and suddenly looms very large.

For a listener who doesn’t already own recordings of these two concertos this CD will provide a wholly acceptable and enjoyable way of getting to know them. For the listener whose collection already contains one or more of the many fine recordings of these concertos, these performances by Tedeschi and Bonynge are not essential hearing or buying. They are the sort of performances one would be very happy to hear in the concert hall. Yet, good as they are, real as their commitment to the music is, these performances haven’t the power, the sense of sheer necessity, that the greatest have. But, of course, it isn’t entirely fair to judge Tedeschi by the standards of, say Richter or Lupu; he is a young pianist at the beginning of his career, and there is doubtless more to come from him in future years. He is a name to note.

Glyn Pursglove

 

 



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