There have been quite a few child prodigies in the history of music. Yet, an equally exceptional phenomenon is that of a musician who has devoted over eighty years of his life to music and finds himself in a mental and physical state which still allows him to keep performing in front of a vast audience. For these chosen artists, one could forge a new concept, that of the “venerable prodigy”, a category to which Menahem Pressler belongs without any doubts. After 53 years as the legendary pianist of the Beaux-Arts trio (from 1955 to 2008), Menahem Pressler is now enjoying an incredible Indian summer which is bringing him back to the solo career he enjoyed for a decade, after he won the Debussy competition. On the occasion of his 90th Birthday he celebrates with Paavo Järvi and the Orchestre de Paris at Salle Pleyel in Paris performing Mozart piano concerts no 23 and 27 as well as Debussy: Clair de lune.
Defining Polish composer Ignacy Jan Paderewski’s musical personality inevitably sends commentators rushing for comparisons with influential predecessors and contemporaries: Chopin is usually in the lead, followed in short order by Liszt, Wagner and Rachmaninov. But at his best, and that is very much the case with the works recorded here, there is much more to Paderewski. Chopin may be clearly evident in the Piano Sonata of 1903, but a distinctive and distinguished melodic voice shines through in the slow movement and everywhere there is always a strong sense of forward momentum. The A minor Variations from the mid-1880s inhabit a very different world. A soulful, almost neo-Baroque theme sets the tone for wide-ranging figuration over which the spirit of Brahms hovers perceptibly. Although the E flat minor Variations were originally composed at much the same time, a major rewrite in 1903 gave them far greater scope and seriousness with much richer textures and a questing musical accent sometimes of quite modernist cut. In Jonathan Plowright these works have a near-ideal interpreter. Not only does he negotiate Paderewski’s dizzying virtuoso demands with evident ease, but also his ability to bring an almost string-like tone to the more lyrical passages constantly fascinates in this excellent recording.
You're going to love this disc. It does everything this wonderful series of "Romantic Piano Concertos" is supposed to: present captivating repertoire in excellent performances. Christian Sinding was a notoriously spotty composer when working in large forms. After all, if you live well into your 80s writing tons of music along the way, but remain famous for one three-minute piano miniature ("Rustle of Spring"), then something's not right. That said, this youthful concerto offsets its tendency to ramble with an abundance of fresh, enjoyable tunes and fistfuls of pianistic fun and games. When the melodies are so attractive it's impossible to deny Sinding his right to dwell on them at length. Eyvind Alnaes was one of those composer/performer/administrators whose busy schedule prevented him from writing much music, but thank God he turned out this piano concerto. Scored for a massive orchestra with an enormous brass section (six trombones!), the piece is, believe it or not, actually rather light and vivacious, except for those moments when the full ensemble really cuts loose. The finale, a free-flowing waltz, would be a "pops" favorite if the scoring weren't so extravagant. It's just the kind the music you'll want to enjoy on disc because you'll never hear it live: a big, juicy, Wagnerian love-fest between the soloist and the orchestra that leaves you wanting more.
Rudolf Buchbinder is firmly established as one of the most important pianists on the international scene, he is a regular guest of such renowned orchestras as the Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Orchestre National de France, London Philharmonic, National Symphony, and the Philadelphia Orchestra. He has collaborated with the world’s most distinguished conductors including Abbado, Dohnányi, Dudamel, Frühbeck de Burgos, Giulini, Harnoncourt, Maazel, Masur, Mehta, Saraste, Sawallisch and Thielemann and is a regular guest at the Salzburger Festspiele and other major festivals around the world.