The young Kissin was able to work wonders in Prokofiev–above all the Sixth Sonata (Kissin in Tokyo - Yevgeny Kissin). Regrettably, the mature Kissin recently delivered highly disappointing live performances of the Second and Third Concertos (Prokofiev: Piano Concertos Nos. 2 & 3), indeed, regardless of the predictable rave in the British press. This 1994 recording of the First and Third Concertos is unquestionably very good, especially the youthful First, although competition is very strong–from Graffman/Szell (Prokofiev: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 3) and Argerich/Dutoit (Prokofiev: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 3 / Bartok: Piano Concerto No. 3) in this coupling, and from the complete sets by Berman/Gutierrez/Järvi, Toradze/Gergiev and Krainev/Kitaenko.
In 1976, when the cold war was cold indeed, wrote the New York Times, Lazar Berman appeared virtually unannounced from behind the Iron Curtain and provided the West with an exotic glimpse of a secretive Soviet musical life. On his first United States tour, Mr. Berman made an overwhelming impression as a performer who did more than just overcome technical problems; he seemed to crush them into insignificance. Bermans recordings, though relatively few in number, confirmed that impression.
The debut recording from a young Russian pianist who wowed the public and critics with his recent Prokofiev piano concerto cycle with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, he embarks upon a recital tour to Japan in January, playing repertoire that includes the complete Prokofiev piano sonatas. In May 2013 Denis Kozhukhin will perform Sonatas 6–8 at the South Bank Centre’s The Rest is Noise festival. He won the coveted first prize at the prestigious Queen Elisabeth Competition in Belgium in 2010 and is now in demand with many leading orchestras.
Berman’s first teacher was his mother, herself a pupil of Isabella Vengerova, but at an early age he had lessons from Savshinsky of the Leningrad Conservatory. Berman first played in public at the age of four, and at the age of seven he took part in a concert at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, subsequently being asked to record Mozart’s Fantasy in D minor K. 397, and a composition of his own…
Since pianist Yuja Wang and conductor Gustavo Dudamel count among Deutsche Grammophon’s young superstars, it was inevitable that they collaborate on disc. In the Rachmaninov Third Concerto Wang’s tendency to reverse accents and make sudden pianissimo plunges at certain climactic moments borders on mannerism (what’s with that momentum-breaking comma right before the first-movement development section Allegro?), but the piano part’s swirling textures benefit from Wang’s fanciful voicings, imaginative rubatos, and frisky, dead-on accurate fingerwork.
Hailed by some as the third primary figure among great Russian pianists of the twentieth century's second half, Lazar Berman has occasionally lived up to that reputation, but frequently has not. Emil Gilels, the first genius-level Soviet pianist to become well-known in the West, insisted that there was one artist, yet unheard in the West, who was the greater artist. Later, after Sviatoslav Richter's arrival in Europe and America, most felt Gilels had been correct. Still later, however, Gilels maintained that yet another pianist, Lazar Berman, was the finest of the three. After the initial stir created by Berman's 1976 American tour and other appearances in the West, critical opinion held that, while he was an extraordinary if uneven artist, he was not superior to the protean Richter or to the clear-minded Gilels. Still, his art was of an order by no means common.