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Pavel PABST (1854-1897)
Piano Concerto in E flat major op. 82 (1882) [31:27]
Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
Piano Concerto in C sharp minor op. 30 (1882-3) [14:51]
Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
Piano Concerto in F sharp minor op. 20 (1896) [27:29]
Oleg Marshev (piano)
South Jutland Symphony Orchestra/Vladimir Ziva
rec. ALSION, Sønderborg, Denmark, 5-10 March 2007. DDD


Experience Classicsonline

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-Saëns 2. The final Allegro is a romantic effusion redolent of Liszt and Balakirev. 

The Scriabin is a Cinderella - terribly and unwarrantably neglected. It's a work of heady romantic melodic inspiration and if you’ve never heard it before then don’t delay – 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 Neuhaus’s 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 Pontinen’s 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.

Rob Barnett


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