Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is one terrific performance of Dvorák's sadly neglected and underrated Piano Concerto, and it's so different from anything else available that it really does offer a fresh view of the work. For the record, Primakov sticks mostly to Dvorák's original text, to his credit. Much has been made of the work's obvious debt to Beethoven and Mozart, and of the awkwardness of the somewhat clunky (but purposeful) piano writing. Accordingly, the best performances tend to give the piece a certain classical crispness combined with a touch of emotional reserve in the more lyrical passages. In other words, it gets played sort of like Brahms for lack of any obvious alternative.
Primakov, on the other hand, evidently views the music more like Tchaikovsky or Rachmaninov, with plenty of Slavic soul, and guess what? It works fabulously. In the second subjects of the first movement and finale (that wonderful, "stranger in paradise" theme) Primakov brings the tempos nearly to a standstill, but his playing is so beautiful, and so captivatingly inflected, that the music never falls apart. Indeed, allowing the music's occasionally episodic nature its due makes the piece sound even more spontaneous, and therefore coherent, than by imposing on it a "classical" strictness that Dvorák likely never intended, and that often comes across as mere rigidity. And it goes without saying, given the approach, that the quick music has plenty of excitement and no mean degree of virtuoso thrills.
The other thing that makes this performance special is the outstanding contribution of Justin Brown and the Odense orchestra. Certainly this must be the finest accompaniment this concerto has yet received, full of color, transparency, fire, and (in the slow movement especially) sensitivity. Perfect balances and ideally natural engineering bathe the performance in a warmly sonorous glow. As a bonus, Primakov offers similarly sympathetic and characterful readings of a 30-minute chunk of the Poetic Tone-Pictures, once again making us wonder that this lovely music remains the province of Dvorák specialists. "At the Old Castle" and "At a Hero's Grave" show Dvorák flirting with impressionism a couple of decades early, and with great success. A magnificent release, surprising in the best possible way.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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