The novelty here is the work presented first, Karl Klindworth’s
transcription of Francesca da Rimini, which demands playing
of compelling power and expression. It’s a commanding transcription,
very seldom recorded and even more seldom performed in concert.
It bears the stamp of Old School pianism, and it requires a player
with similar, nerveless instincts, to bring forth its full pianistic
In Dennis Plutalov it certainly
has a fearless proselytizer. He evinces strong and sinewy
power and a fine awareness of the work’s architectural peaks
and troughs. His sweeping playing also takes in moments of
refined lyricism and some brief smudges are a price worth
paying to hear the territory of the transcription so well
delineated for us.
Plutalov was born in Tambov, in Russia, in 1976. He studied first in his home town and then in Moscow where in 2001 he
graduated from the Gnessin with his Degree. The following
year he was in America, studying in North Carolina, and then
studying with Leon Fleisher pupil, Mark Clinton.
The Beethoven sonata that follows makes a more guarded impression.
The playing is tough and muscular, and at times a bit hectoring.
The pedal tends to be overused, and there isn’t an ideal clarity
or pointing in the slow movement. His response here is somewhat
generically big-boned, and metrically speaking there can be
a sapping sense to the phraseology. Altogether this is an
imperious, late Beethoven reading of an early sonata lacking
pithy control and colouristic nuance.
The recording of the Beethoven is less laudable than the Tchaikovsky
but for the Rachmaninoff Etude-tableaux we return to Kimball
Recital Hall. He plays four. Of the quartet I liked the handling
of the D minor Op.39 No.8 best. He can be, perhaps unexpectedly,
a little unsubtle in places, and that limits appreciation
of his clearly strong pianistic mechanism.
The recordings then are uneven, and the notes rather patchy.
Ups and downs here – but the Francesca is the prize.
by Nicholas Barnard