CD was originally released as Hyperion CDA66680, and now appears
as a top notch recording and performance at budget price on
Hyperion’s ‘Helios’ label.
Piano Concerto No.1 is one of those pieces which has
slipped in and out of my collection over the years. The one
constant has been a lovely old LP copy of Sviatoslav Richter
and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra under Herbert von Karajan
from 1962. With very few minutes per side it has grooves like
the guttering on a skittle alley and is a fine example of Deutsche
Grammophon’s uncompromising attitude to quality over quantity.
There are innumerable versions available on CD, notably with
both Martha Agerich/Abbado and Lang Lang/Barenboim currently
on DG, Mikhail Pletnev/Fedoseyev on Virgin and Emil Gilels/Reiner
on RCA just to name a few heavyweight variants. With so many
to chose from it seems almost pointless trying to pick and choose,
and in the end Hyperion are making life easy for us by making
such an engaging and involving recording accessible for less
that the price of two pints of lager in a London pub. Demidenko’s
technique is immaculate, and both his and that of Lazarev are
muscular and athletic – pulling no punches in the first movement
and the more skittish final Allegro con fuoco. The central
Andante semplice has poetry and grace, and the whole
thing is recorded with all the gloss and transparency one could
hope for. This performance may possibly be lacking the last
ounce of grandiose nobility or weighty heroism. However, you
never get the feeling that there are any symbolic messages being
over-emphasised, and I never felt I was missing anything either.
other really ascendant or transcendent star on this disc is
a magical and gorgeously transparent recording of Scriabin’s
Piano Concerto in F sharp minor. This was Scriabin’s
first work to involve an orchestra, but the effortless dialogue
between soloist and various sections and individuals from the
orchestra show a natural feel for texture and the heightening
of effect when piling on the emotional show for big tunes, or
for the subtle touches of detail in numerous delightful counter-melodies.
The matching of simplicity and waves of romantic splendour are
well handled in the balance of this recording, so that things
never seem to get stodgy. Worlds apart, Scriabin’s music was
however recognised and respected by a forward looking composer
such as Stravinsky, who no doubt identified a fellow individualist
and warrior against bland conformity – the two in any case got
on well enough when they met on a train journey not long before
Scriabin’s untimely death. Scriabin’s idiom in this concerto
is unashamedly romantic, but some colleagues such as Rimsky-Korsakov
were less than enthusiastic. The work was generally well received
elsewhere however, and a quick look in the current catalogue
show it to be a fairly popular work, if not quite as universally
accepted and over-exposed as the Tchaikovsky. Collectors concerned
that this concerto will be as hard to digest as some of Scriabin’s
later, more ‘transcendental’ works need have no fears; if anything
the work shares more with the romanticism of Chopin, with a
directness of utterance which is easy to follow and hard not
to find attractive.
Ateş Orga’s informative original booklet notes included,
this is a re-issue which ticks all the boxes on any scale of quality.
Don’t be put off by the dismally muddy scene on the cover: these
are colourful recordings of performances which can cure you of
the need to seek out any other.