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.
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…
This 2008 live recording with the London Symphony Orchestra is Valery Gergiev's 2nd complete recording of Prokofiev's ballet Romeo & Juliet, the 1st being a 1991 Philips release with the Kirov Orchestra. This performance, like his 1st, is notable for its refinement & lyricism. It's perhaps surprising that Gergiev, known for the wildness & ferocity of his performances of other Prokofiev works, like The Fiery Angel, shows such restraint here. Gergiev clearly understands the ballet as a work in which Prokofiev, writing originally for the Bolshoi, a theater known for its conservatism (although that production was canceled), tailored his score to follow in the tradition of the 3 great Tchaikovsky ballets.
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.
These are excellent performances of exceptionally interesting repertoire. Prokofiev himself arranged 19 numbers from his Cinderella ballet for solo piano, so he surely would not have objected in principle to their reworking for two pianos; nor in practice, I suspect, because Pletnev’s arrangements are fabulously idiomatic and the playing here has all the requisite sparkle and drive. Shostakovich’s Op 6 Suite is far too seldom heard. True, it is an apprentice piece and open to criticism – both the first two movements peter out rather unconvincingly and the blend of grandiosity à la Rachmaninov and academic dissection of material à la Taneyev is not always a happy or very original one. But as a learning experience the Suite was a vital springboard for the First Symphony a couple of years later and there is real depth of feeling in the slow movement, as well as intimations elsewhere of the obsessive drive of the mature Shostakovich. What a phenomenally talented 16-year-old he was!
Firma Melodiya presents recordings by one of the best known pianists of the 20th century Lazar Berman.
A graduate of the Central Music School and Moscow Conservatory where he studied under professor Alexander Goldenweiser, Lazar Berman, while still a student, became a prize-winner of the World Festival of Youth and Students in Berlin, and the prestigious Queen Elisabeth Music Competition in Brussels and Franz Liszt International Piano Competition in Budapest. He who struck the audience with his phenomenal virtuosity and unsurpassed technique became the best interpreter of Liszt’s music in this country (in particular, he was the first Soviet pianist who recorded all twelve of Liszt’s Transcendental Études).