Oleg Marshev is very much a 'house' pianist for Danacord. That
does not make him any less commanding but it is fascinating to
see such mutual commitment. He has recorded prodigiously for the
label including the complete concertante works of Rachmaninov,
Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich and Prokofiev.
The Pabst is a stormy and even
blusteringly romantic piece. The bass-emphatic coruscations
at the end of the first movement suggest a Brahmsian sympathy
but melded with Liszt. Pabst studied with Brahms's friend Anton
Door and one of his party pieces was the Liszt Don
Juan Fantasy. This is more flamboyant and less subtle than
Medtner and the German flavour is offset by a Tchaikovskian
accent. In the first movement there are echoes of the fate motif
from Beethoven 5. The Andante cantabile is wistful and
again has Tchaikovskian inclinations with a marbled dash of
Brahms. The folk-chattering boisterous finale is exciting with
some very original twists and turns but it lacks the tragic
mien of the first movement. It is delivered by Marshev with
granitic determination and polished tonal grandeur.
Rimsky-Korsakov's Piano Concerto is pocket-size and perhaps for this
reason gets overlooked. It is in four brief and continuously
played movements. The thematic material is built from a characteristically
limpid-melancholy folk tune collected by Balakirev in 1866.
It is in fact very entertaining and if there are reminiscences
of Night on the Bare Mountain in the Polacca this
is not to worry us. There is a serene-placid Andante
which recalled the more peaceful moments in Saint-SaŽns 2. The
final Allegro is a romantic effusion redolent of Liszt
The Scriabin is a Cinderella - terribly
and unwarrantably neglected. It's a
work of heady romantic melodic inspiration
and if youíve never heard it before
then donít delay Ė I guarantee satisfaction.
It trounces in memorability and achievement
the two works by which it is said to
be influenced: the two Chopin concertos.
The leonine Russian heroism is contrasted
with some wonderfully fragrant melodic
touches. It represents a path which
Scriabin was not to go down - instead
it was in some measure taken by Rachmaninov.
In the first movement listen to the
golden swell of the melody carried into
the yearning violins at 4:40 in the
first movement. The Andante with
its variations could easily have been
stultifyingly academic but not a bit
of it. It sighs as it muses but it is
not saccharine-sentimental. Marshev's
playing is blessed with satin-toned
restraint that fades in a moment for
the militaristic rasp at 3:10. A wonderful
piece superbly done though not erasing
memories of Neuhausís recording now
on Vista Vera.
Here are three fine Russian romantic concertos
played and recorded with aristocratic style yet with plenty
of stormy vitality when required. There is no direct competition
in a single disc. The Pabst has been recorded for Cameo
Classics by Panagiotis Trochopoulos (who this year is tackling
a complete Holbrooke recital at the English Music Festival)
but the coupling is less substantial than here. The Rimsky is
on Hyperion with the two Balakirev concertos and the Scriabin
has been recorded quite a few times. I rather like Viktoria
Postnikova's recording on Chandos and Pontinenís on Bis but
I have already referred to my all-time favourite reference version
by Neuhaus even if it is in stressed historic sound. The present
Danacord version is a very strong contender and benefits from
plenty of character, poetry and healthy modern technology. The
strings sound wonderful in the homecoming at the climax of the
finale (4:54) but the weight of a larger violin section is missing.
The recording throughout is warm and commanding
with a specially endearing piano tone and image.
An unhackneyed collection of Russian piano
concertos which will reward the curious and surprise the explorer.