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Prokofiev, Rachmaninov: Piano Concertos / Pletnev, Etc

Release Date: 03/11/2003 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 471576   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Sergei ProkofievSergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Mikhail Pletnev
Conductor:  Mstislav Rostropovich
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Russian National Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 11 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Although at first they may seem odd bedfellows, Prokofiev and Rachmaninov make a splendid pair in these absolutely superb and riveting performances of their respective Third Piano Concertos. Pletnev and Rostropovich (who conducts the pianist's erstwhile orchestra) together juxtapose the "rhythmic" and "melodic" elements of Prokofiev's spiky work with a view to Rachmaninov's flair for romantic thrust, allowing the listener to make remarkable but not readily evident associations between the two composers that stretch beyond their shared Russian heritage.

While often given to willful exuberance, Pletnev gives us a Rachmaninov Third, the paragon of
Read more arch-romantic piano concertos, that is a model of probity and clarity with nary an excessively sentimental moment. Lean textures suffuse his playing, and his interaction with the orchestra is balanced and thoughtful such that for once the texture never degenerates into a sonic sludgefest. Pletnev knows instinctively when to give way, so that the incidental flourishes in the piano recede gently into the accompaniment, allowing the marvelous orchestral themes to come through brilliantly.

This performance seems subdued at first--perhaps a touch too cautious for those who like this piece big and bold--and even the monumental extended first-movement cadenza sounds as if the pianist is holding back (if that seems possible). Nonetheless, Pletnev and Rostropovich fire on all cylinders in an explosive third movement that is simply jaw-dropping--rhythmically propulsive and tightly wound (and with a tiny cut that few, if any, will miss). Pletnev rings out those notoriously difficult upper-range passages in a dazzling, flying-fingers exhibition, and the concerto finishes gloriously with the trumpets in terrific form.

The Prokofiev represents an apt segue from this last movement in a reading that, while played at deliberate tempo, remains extraordinarily taut. With the exception of the more lyrical passages in the middle of the second and third movements, virtually every note from orchestra and pianist is a crisp staccato, an element that surely reinforces Prokofiev's brittle, precisely defined score. In the more gentle moments Pletnev gives the melodies their due, but Rostropovich's austere directness really puts the stamp on this performance.

These observations, however, don't detract from what is a uniquely punchy feat of musical precision. Rarely do you hear the orchestra and piano so together as an ensemble in those famous 16th-note passages that frame the opening and conclusion of the first movement. Further, Pletnev's technique is so fine that the climactic third-movement glissandos sound as if they are played note for note, rather than with hands sliding back and forth. In short, while they may not be to everyone's taste, these are personal, richly characterized performances unlike any others, captured in wonderful sound, and should not be missed. [4/12/2003]
--Michael Liebowitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

Concerto for Piano no 3 in C major, Op. 26 by Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  Mikhail Pletnev (Piano)
Conductor:  Mstislav Rostropovich
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Russian National Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1917-1921; USA 
Date of Recording: 09/2002 
Venue:  Great Hall, Moscow Conservatory, Russia 
Length: 29 Minutes 31 Secs. 
Concerto for Piano no 3 in D minor, Op. 30 by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Mikhail Pletnev (Piano)
Conductor:  Mstislav Rostropovich
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Russian National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1909; Russia 
Date of Recording: 09/2002 
Venue:  Great Hall, Moscow Conservatory, Russia 
Length: 41 Minutes 43 Secs. 

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