One hates to admit it, but at this point in his career, pianist Maurizio Pollini is no longer a Mozart player. Although a supreme virtuoso, a passionate intellectual, and a consummate artist, Pollini has grown too brilliant, too intense, and too calculating for Mozart. Pollini's tone is crystalline, his textures are transparent and his tempos are perfect in this breathtaking 2005 recording of the G major and C major piano concertos, but it all seems too cold and too objective. Although he is also directing the Wiener Philharmoniker from the piano, this doesn't seem to encumber Pollini's virtuosity in any way; indeed, he appears to enjoy the challenge, audibly coaxing more force from the musicians' playing.
The young Kissin was able to work wonders in Prokofiev–above all the Sixth Sonata (Kissin in Tokyo - Yevgeny Kissin). Regrettably, the mature Kissin recently delivered highly disappointing live performances of the Second and Third Concertos (Prokofiev: Piano Concertos Nos. 2 & 3), indeed, regardless of the predictable rave in the British press. This 1994 recording of the First and Third Concertos is unquestionably very good, especially the youthful First, although competition is very strong–from Graffman/Szell (Prokofiev: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 3) and Argerich/Dutoit (Prokofiev: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 3 / Bartok: Piano Concerto No. 3) in this coupling, and from the complete sets by Berman/Gutierrez/Järvi, Toradze/Gergiev and Krainev/Kitaenko.
Midem Classique Award winner Christian Zacharias continues his survey of Mozart Piano Concertos as both performer & conductor. Featuring arguably 1 of the most famous, the A Major. MDG’s complete recording of Mozart’s piano compositions with Christian Zacharias in the double role as pianist & conductor of the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra continues with KV 488, certainly the most-performed piano concerto by the great Salzburg composer, complemented here by KV 246 & KV 175, Mozart’s very 1st piano concerto.
This volume in the series seems to have taken a step up, with playing which previously might have been a little cosy now edgier & with more contrast in light & shade. The overall ensemble is excellent, & these are very good Mozart concerto interpretations indeed. Sound quality is up to MDG’s usual high standard, with a well-scaled ambience in Mch, & the 2+2+2 channel setup with height channels works fine in my 5.1 setup, despite my not reassigning the centre & sub speaker.
This awaited release is the first disc in a series of Olli Mustonen and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Hannu Lintu performing the Piano Concertos by Sergei Prokofiev. Without a doubt some of the most substantial twentieth century masterworks, Prokofievs piano concertos prove the composers brilliant piano skills. The composer premiered his First Piano Concerto in 1914. The Third Piano Concerto is the most popular of Prokofievs concertos. The piece took several years to complete, and premiered in Chicago in 1921. Prokofievs Fourth Piano Concerto (for the left hand) is the most rarely heard of the three concertos featured on this recording.
Samson François was a pianist of mercurial brilliance and mesmeric charisma, capable of extraordinary poetry. The sense of spontaneity in his playing could at times become wilful, even provocative, but he never ceases to exercise his fascination on the listener. Chopin’s music was of essential importance to him, and here he performs both the composer’s piano concertos.
The two concertos are worth lisenting although not masterpices. The second in the disk is better. Spada's playing is delicate and precise although the tempi in both finales is rather slow. Not to be compared with those concertos by Mozart but good. The overture to "Les Horaces" is beautifully composed in a Gluckian style. Its final subject heard by the end is very inspired and heroic. The overture to "Semiramide" (presented as to either "La Secchia Rapita" or "Il Ricco di un Giorno" -I can not remember exactly- in other Salieri's CD) is less interesting and Spada's slow tempo reinforces the mediocrity of the piece.
The old model for creating a hit classical recording – big-name soloist plus big-name conductor in major repertory work – is not so common anymore, but this live Brahms recording from the Staatskapelle Berlin under Venezuela's Gustavo Dudamel, with Argentine-Israeli-Palestinian-Spanish pianist Daniel Barenboim as soloist, shows that there's life in the concept yet. One could point to the virtues of pianist and conductor separately: it's a rare septuagenarian who can combine power and clear articulation of detail the way Barenboim does, and Dudamel builds a vast sweep in, especially, the Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15. But it's the way that the two work together that really makes news. Chalk it up to shared South American heritage or to whatever the listener wants, but the way the orchestra and piano define separate spheres and work them together is extraordinary. Again, it is in the Piano Concerto No. 1 and its Beethovenian drama that their mutual understanding is most evident, but there is a sense of great variety powerfully unified throughout.