An illuminating, thought-provoking and immensely enjoyable release - one of the very finest achievements in Pletnev’s already imposing discography.
Gimmickry? Not a bit of it. This is a genuinely illuminating and thought-provoking issue. More than that, it’s immensely enjoyable. The freedoms and avoidances of convention which Pletnev often likes to allow himself, but which can seem merely self-conscious and applied from the outside, here sound consistently inspired and true to the spirit of the music.
The instrument is Rachmaninov’s pre-war American Steinway, but I’ve been listening without more precise details than that. What I hear is a well-regulated tone, a little more uneven between the registers andRead more a little thinner overall than its modern counterpart, but never measly or tinny, with the exception of the high treble, which sometimes gives an impression similar to excessive use of the soft pedal. Some of the glittering passagework in the Chopin does becomes rather glaring, especially when pushed beyond mezzo-forte. On the whole though, even this is easy to adapt to, because in Pletnev’s hands the texture is so rich in nuance, his own eloquence apparently released from all inhibitions. There’s also a significant gain in transparency. Indeed if anyone wanted to claim that this kind of instrument has all the advantages of the ‘early’ piano with none of the drawbacks I wouldn’t be inclined to disagree. Whether it would stand up to the demands of having to project to the back of a full-size concert hall I don’t know, but heard in DG’s close yet well-ventilated recording, it sounds marvellous.
I’m not sure I’ve ever heard as involving an account of the Rachmaninov Corelli Variations, and only Richter in my experience has surpassed Pletnev in the Etudes-tableaux. Nor is it only Rachmaninov’s own opulent textures which are thrillingly clarified. The Les adieux Sonata is wonderfully free, both in rubato and voicing, and never so at the expense of the longer lines of the structure.
Pletnev’s Mendelssohn is breathtakingly poetic and, in the Rondo capriccioso, stunningly articulate, every single phrase subtle yet unselfconscious. All in all, this is one of the very finest achievements in Pletnev’s already imposing discography.