Notes and Editorial Reviews
Mikhail Pletnev and Libor Pešek's 1988 Rachmaninov disc makes a welcome reappearance. Pešek launches the concerto with a refreshing athleticism, resisting the temptation to make the opening horn fanfare an imitation of Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony. Pletnev matches this energy with his own brisk and fluid pacing, making for a performance that's stunning in its clarity and power. Yet for all this, Pletnev lends the music a Chopinesque poetic sensitivity (especially in the slow movement) that's quite affecting.
Ah, but it's in the Paganini Rhapsody where the sparks really fly. Pletnev invests each variation with a specific vibrancy that perfectly defines its individual character, all the while magically relating each to the whole--and his spectacular playing in the Scherzando Variation 15 will have you reaching for the repeat button. Pešek leads the Philharmonia in a vital and colorful performance and offers a particularly moving rendition of the famous Andante Cantabile variation. This is a fine effort overall, though not one to shake me from my coveted Rubinstein/Reiner classic on RCA. Virgin's recording indicates a large venue, but there's plenty of presence, depth, and clarity to the sound.
--Victor Carr Jr, ClassicsToday.com