There's nothing revelatory in this live recording of Brahms' two piano concertos by an American pianist, Japanese conductor, and Australian orchestra. That is, except for the music itself. Pianist Garrick Ohlsson, with an octave-and-a-half reach equal to Brahms' own, has the power for the titanic Beethovenian gestures of the Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15, and for its foot-stomper of a finale, which is as good a place as any for the neophyte classical listener to start. Ohlsson is equally adept in catching the spacious and subtle dimensions of the second concerto, which one Viennese critic termed a symphony with piano obbligato.
Chopin's two piano concertos have long been admired more as pianistic vehicles than as integrated works for piano and orchestra. But in his revelatory new recording, Krystian Zimerman suggests otherwise: The opening orchestral tuttis have so much more light, shade, orchestral color, and detail, you wonder if they've been rewritten. Every gesture, every instrumental solo is so specifically characterized that by the time the piano makes a dramatic entrance, the pieces have become operas without words.
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.
Uzbek-born pianist Anna Malikova is best known for her interpretations of music by Chopin. She has performed and recorded both concertos, the complete etudes, preludes, and impromptus, and numerous individual solo works. But Malikova is hardly a specialist: she plays a wide range of compositions, taking in large segments of the outputs of J.S. Bach, Soler, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Liszt, Saint-Saëns, Rachmaninov, Prokofiev, and Shostakovich. She has toured extensively throughout Europe, Asia, Australia, and South America, and has performed with many of the world's leading ensembles, including the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, and the major orchestras of Warsaw, Moscow, Sydney, Oslo, Tashkent, and others.
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.
It was an eminently sensible decision to couple Zimerman's previously separate Chopin concertos on a single CD. The Ax/Ormandy/RCA disc is the only rival as a coupling, so let me say at once that in different moods I would be equally happy with either. The main difference, I think, is the actual sound. From DG we get a closer, riper sonority, with Zimerman's piano much more forwardly placed. Both orchestra and piano are more distanced on the RCA recording, especially Ax's piano. This, together with Ax's lighter, more translucent semiquaver figuration (and sometimes his greater willingness to stand back and merely accompany—as in certain episodes in the F minor Concerto's finale) often conjures up visions of Chopin himself at the keyboard, and we know he was often criticized for insufficiently strong projection.