Notes and Editorial Reviews
Piano Concerto No. 1.
Tzimon Barto (pn); Dimitri Maslennikov (vc); Christoph Eschenbach, cond; German SO Berlin
CAPRICCIO C5065 (60: 07)
Somewhere in the DNA of most music listeners, I’m persuaded to assert, lurks a nearly intuitive sense for Van Cliburn’s way with the Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto. This is not an attempt to rewrite anthropology along the lines of acquired characteristics. But it does recognize that, since 1959, millions of
Americans have come to know this work through the good offices of Cliburn’s and Kondrashin’s swift, incandescent performance. And because that year’s Tchaikovsky Prize was such a significant event in the symbolic drama of the Cold War, the already familiar concerto quickly found its way more deeply into popular song and elevator Muzak than one would have anticipated. We know how it goes, because for 50 years we knew how it went––or so we think. Cliburn’s way with the concerto, it should also be pointed out, continued a tradition established by Horowitz of performing the music for speed, tension, and electricity.
But nothing quite prepares one for the collaboration here between Christoph Eschenbach and Tzimon Barto. Cliburn takes about 34 minutes to get through the concerto. Barto requires almost 40. I’m not prepared entirely to say that doing the piece this way is misconceived, but it is certainly different. If the performance avoids disaster, it is because the concerto can survive a ruminant approach, which this is, because of the peculiarities of its construction. The great romantic melody for full orchestra with which it begins is never repeated, until, in the finale, a sort of grand bookend, mirror-image passage brings the piece to a close. In between, one might say, the piece meanders purposefully.
If Eschenbach’s and Barto’s way with the music sometimes leaves one feeling we are exploring the Brahms B?, we may simply assert that we are meandering more beautifully. The first movement is the most severely extended. But Barto’s ebb and flow is natural and thoughtful. Eschenbach’s accompaniment manages to avoid total flaccidity. The sound is flat-out gorgeous. Barto’s touch is appealing––and nothing unmusical happens. Against my better something-or-other, I found myself repeatedly playing this performance. But be forearmed: You haven’t heard it this way before.
are beautifully played by Dimitri Maslennikov and ably accompanied by Eschenbach. Nothing remotely radical is attempted, though. Maslennikov has an appealing sonority. He plays a Matteo Goffriler instrument dating from 1700 and has the good sense to realize this isn’t Elgar. So, for a change, does Eschenbach.
FANFARE: Steven Kruger
Works on This Recording
Be the first to review this title