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Domenico SCARLATTI (1685 - 1757)
Sonata in B Minor K27 [3.41]
Sonata in F Minor K466 [6.29]
Sonata in D Minor K1 [2.07]
Sonata in D Minor K141 [3.31]
Sonata in D Minor K32 [2.37]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891 - 1953)
Sonata No. 2 in D Minor Op 14 [18:19]
Dimitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906 - 1975)
Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Major Op 102 [18:14]
Elegy from the Ballet Suite No. 3 (arr. Dimitry Masleev) [3.08]
Dimitry Masleev (piano)
Tartarstan National Symphony Orchestra/Alexander Sladkovsky
MELODIYA MELCD1002517 [58.15]

This disc is a calling card for the brilliant young Russian pianist, Dimitry Masleev, who won the First Prize at the International Tchaikovsky Competition in 2015. He has won rave reviews for his concert performances and, on the evidence of this recording, his First Prize at the Tchaikovsky competition was well deserved.

Masleev’s new recording opens with five of Scarlatti's more popular piano sonatas. Scarlatti may at first seem a strange bedfellow for a recording dominated by Shostakovich and Prokofiev. However, the programme notes point out that Shostakovich made arrangements of Scarlatti's sonatas while Prokofiev frequently performed the Italian composer's keyboard works. Masleev approaches these works in a Romantic way, using all the resources of the modern concert grand although he does not over-egg the pudding in the way that Horowitz and Pletnev sometimes do. The opening B Minor Sonata is stylish and graceful and Masleev’s control of phrasing, touch and articulation is excellent. The F Minor is a gorgeous Romantic nocturne very much in Horowitz-mould while the first of the D Minor sonatas is played with considerable charm. The D Minor Sonata K141 is a favourite encore piece of Martha Argerich and in some of the early recordings she plays the repeated notes at a blistering pace. Masleev is slower but I was impressed with the extraordinary control he brings to the repeated notes which are exceptionally clean and even. The Scarlatti selection finishes with the Sonata in D Minor K32 where Masleev gives a rapt, poetic performance sustaining the slow moving line beautifully.

From Scarlatti we moved to Prokofiev’s D Minor Piano Sonata which the composer wrote in 1912. The work is dedicated to Prokofiev’s friend from the St Petersburg Conservatory, Max Schmidthof, who committed suicide in 1913. This is a monumental performance from Masleev and shows that he is destined to become a front-rank Prokofiev interpreter. The first movement is strongly characterised and sees Masleev move seamlessly from wistful romanticism to Prokofiev’s trademark spiky and sardonic utterances. The scherzo is a dark fairy tale propelled by enormous rhythmic energy, while the trio shows Prokofiev as his most witty and playful. Masleev shows us his extraordinary dynamic range in the slow movement where he carefully observes the composer’s markings. The textures are layered beautifully and one became increasingly caught up in the melancholy sweep and intensity of the movement. The finale is a whirling tarantella which Masleev plays at full throttle while having fun with Prokofiev’s slapstick histrionics. There are many great recordings of this sonata and this very fine performance from Masleev stands comparison with the very best of them.

The final major work on the recording was Shostakovich’s perennially popular F Major Piano Concerto which the composer wrote for his son Maxim’s graduation at the Moscow Conservatory. Masleeev recorded the work in 2016 with the Tartarstan National Symphony Orchestra and Alexander Sladkovsky as part of a tribute on the 100th anniversary of the composer’s birth. My favourite recording of this concerto is the one which Alexeev made with Maksymiuk and the English Chamber Orchestra. I have to say, however, that this new recording by Masleev and Sladkovsky is every bit as good. In the opening movement one cannot not help but be swept up in the infectious exuberance of Masleev’s playing and the tight interplay between him and his orchestral partners makes for an exciting performance. The balance between orchestra and soloist is excellent throughout and I was struck with the exceptional clarity of Masleev’s playing. The Tartarstan Symphony Orchestra’s strings produce a beautifully textured sound in the opening section of the Andante second movement. Masleev allows Shostakovich’s famous melody to ring out, producing a glorious string of pearl-like notes. There are some lively exchanges between orchestra and soloist in the final Allegro and Masleev does a superb job keeping the passagework crisp and light.

Masleev includes his own transcription of the Elegy from Shostakovich's Third Ballet Suite as a bonus track. This is an outstanding disc and it is clear that Dimitry Masleev is a major new talent.

Robert Beattie



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