Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Piano Concerto No.2 in G minor Op.22 (1868) [23:34]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Fantasia on Hungarian Folk Themes S123 (1852) [17:30]
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op.43 (1934) [24:10]
Elisso Bolkvadze (piano)
Tbilisi Symphony Orchestra/Jansug Kakhidze
rec. 1993 (Liszt) and 1994 (remainder), Tbilisi
CASCAVELLE VEL 3151 [65:52]
The recordings here were made nearly two decades ago and have done the reissue
rounds a number of times before now. Elisso Bolkvadze is a prize-winning pianist
and her hard hitting playing is personable, whilst Jansug Kakhidze (1935-2002)
was known, somewhat optimistically one feels, as ‘the Georgian von Karajan’.
Rachmaninov’s evergreen Paganini Variations illustrates fairly graphically
what is wrong - or at least one of the things that is wrong - which is an impossible
acoustic. It swirls and echoes and with a very closely balanced piano we have
something of an acoustic nightmare on our hands. In any case the performance
is very cautious and dogged. It lacks clarity of direction, pianistic aerial
fancy and a real sense of ensemble cohesion. Add to that a bizarre, albeit vividly
hallucinatory moment toward the end and we are left with a badly balanced, poorly
recorded, stolidly performed piece of work.
The Saint-Saëns is much more up to the mark tempo-wise but the bad balance
does for it too. Bolkvadze’s technique is strong, albeit her imagination
is often somewhat brusque. Orchestral counter-themes sound vapid or so in the
background they might as well not be there at all. Her finger precision is laudable
and she illuminates successive movements reasonably well but she’s fighting
insuperable odds when it comes to the recording. The same is true of Liszt’s
badinage in his Fantasy on Hungarian Folk Themes.
I think it’s probably time these performances were given what the old
Record Guide used to call ‘honourable retirement’.
Probably time these performances were given an ‘honourable retirement’.