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Piano Concerto No.2 in F minor, Op.21 (1829-30)
Piano Concerto No.1 in E
minor, Op.11 (1830) [41:45]
rec. 13-16 May
2008, Carl NielsenHall, Odense, Denmark. DDD
BRIDGE 9278 [75:04]
Why Vassily Primakov's name is not better known is beyond me,
especially given the compelling evidence of this superb recording.
The young Russian-American pianist's interpretations of the two
Chopin piano concertos combine grace and fire in the service of
unflagging intensity. The orchestral accompaniment matches his
commitment phrase for phrase.
The symbiosis is most evident in slow movements. Throughout the
F-minor concerto's second movement, for example, the Odense strings
positively shimmer and shudder by turn; sample Primakov's entrance,
his arpeggio rising gently from the soft cushion of strings only
to find him pausing before taking flight. His beautifully executed
melodic figurations are accompanied with stunningly subtle dynamic
shadings, all leading up to the angst-ridden brass interjections
of the movement's second half.
This is not to deny the vitality of the outer movements - far
from it! The concluding "Vivace" sparkles and dances in a way
achieved by very few, Primakov's involvement so great that we
hear, presumably, his feet hitting the floor at moments of high
drama. The winds' dialogues with the rest of the orchestra are
brought off particularly well, forever altering my view of Chopin's
orchestrational abilities. The same can be said of the E-minor
concerto's rondo, the opening moments veering wildly between starkly
impassioned unisons and chordal introspection under Mann's guidance.
Indeed, the first concerto, placed second on this disc, fares
quite well. Mann and Primakov strike the perfect balance between
Allegro and Maestoso in the epic first movement,
complemented by Primakov, whose stately opening chords give way
to a gorgeous cascade of descending sixths. All tension seems
to resolve at the opening material's return, prefigured by a crescendo
that demonstrates Primakov's raw power and wise virtuosity.
The recording is first-rate, which is as it should be in order
to capture the complexities of Primakov's pianism. His readings
of these concertos invoke shades of Martha Argerich with Charles
Dutoit and of Christian Zimmermann's late-1990s Deutsche Grammophon
traversal, but lacking the former's hectic air and the latter's
fussiness. Primakov's virtuosity is tempered by his attention
to detail, in which his approach might be compared favorably to
Arthur Rubinstein's stereo RCA versions.
These are performances of extraordinary power and beauty. Bridge
has given us one of the great Chopin recordings of recent times,
and even more than on his Beethoven recital, Primakov shows himself
to be a pianist well worth watching.
Extraordinary power and beauty ... see Full Review
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