Chopin's two piano concertos have long been admired more as pianistic vehicles than as integrated works for piano and orchestra. But in his revelatory new recording, Krystian Zimerman suggests otherwise: The opening orchestral tuttis have so much more light, shade, orchestral color, and detail, you wonder if they've been rewritten. Every gesture, every instrumental solo is so specifically characterized that by the time the piano makes a dramatic entrance, the pieces have become operas without words.
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.
This awaited release is the first disc in a series of Olli Mustonen and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Hannu Lintu performing the Piano Concertos by Sergei Prokofiev. Without a doubt some of the most substantial twentieth century masterworks, Prokofievs piano concertos prove the composers brilliant piano skills. The composer premiered his First Piano Concerto in 1914. The Third Piano Concerto is the most popular of Prokofievs concertos. The piece took several years to complete, and premiered in Chicago in 1921. Prokofievs Fourth Piano Concerto (for the left hand) is the most rarely heard of the three concertos featured on this recording.
It was an eminently sensible decision to couple Zimerman's previously separate Chopin concertos on a single CD. The Ax/Ormandy/RCA disc is the only rival as a coupling, so let me say at once that in different moods I would be equally happy with either. The main difference, I think, is the actual sound. From DG we get a closer, riper sonority, with Zimerman's piano much more forwardly placed. Both orchestra and piano are more distanced on the RCA recording, especially Ax's piano. This, together with Ax's lighter, more translucent semiquaver figuration (and sometimes his greater willingness to stand back and merely accompany—as in certain episodes in the F minor Concerto's finale) often conjures up visions of Chopin himself at the keyboard, and we know he was often criticized for insufficiently strong projection.
Mozart, who composed 21 piano concerti, can be regarded as the “inventor” of the popular piano concerto. Although J.S. Bach and his son had written numerous concerti for harpsichord or fortepiano and orchestra before him, Mozart’s enormous input to the genre is mostly due to his concerti being regarded as ‘popular music’ by his contemporaries: to be enjoyed and replaced quickly by newer works. For this series on four DVDs, the most influential, the most artistically challenging and the most popular piano concerti have been selected to be performed by the best Mozart interpreters of our time. The second volume features pianists André Previn, Zoltán Kocsis and Heidrun Holtmann performing the piano concerti Nos 1, 4, 23 and 24. The performances on this DVD were shot in highly attractive baroque venues – at the Teatro Scientifico del Bibiena in Mantua, in the Rittersaal of the Palais Waldstein in Prague and in the Grosse Galerie at Schloss Schönbrunn in Vienna – capturing the atmosphere of Mozart’s lifetime.