Some artists grow into a sort of proprietary relationship with certain pieces of music. If anyone today owns this concerto, it's Martha Argerich. She's recorded it three times, and this latest version seems to sum up an entire lifetime of living with and loving the music. Not only does Argerich simply find more in the notes than almost anyone else, she also does it with a sense of complete spontaneity and naturalness. She's also the most exciting pianist alive, which certainly doesn't hurt in such dazzling music. Claudio Abbado is one of her regular concerto accompanists, and he knows better than to try to take over an Argerich performance. This is her show, and he gives her the kind of support she needs to feel free to work her interpretive magic. – David Hurwitz
Deutsche Grammophon, home to the greatest pianists, presents a collection of the most essential piano masterworks – a collection of the most beautiful, exciting and moving pieces for piano; presenting the world’s best composers, popular works, and outstanding performances from Deutsche Grammophon’s unrivalled roster of pianists: from the greats – Horowitz, Gilels, Richter, Argerich – to the younger generation: Seong-Jin Cho, Alice Sara Ott, Vikingur Ólafsson, Hélène Grimaud, Yuja Wang. Also represented are the new faces of composition – Max Richter and Ludovico Einaudi.
Deep in the heart of the Cold War, there was once a miracle in Moscow – Texas-based classical pianist Van Cliburn, of whom no one had heard, conquered at the First Tchaikovsky Competition, an event set aside to showcase Soviet talent. Cliburn was warned by his own government not to go, given the tense political relationship between the United States and Soviet Union at the time, and once he arrived he was greeted as a party crasher, subject to hostile stares and animosity of the kind he had never dreamed of back in Texas. And it was Cliburn, at the end, which brought down the house, and held the award. Back in America, he was greeted with a ticker tape parade and was the subject of a best-selling biography by Abram Chasins, The Van Cliburn Story, copies of which continue to clog the shelves of American thrift stores five decades hence. Ultimately, though, Cliburn's celebrity lost its luster. Nerves, ultra-picky perfectionism, and mishandling by management led to his early retirement from the concert scene; his greatest latter-day achievement being the force behind the Van Cliburn Piano Competition, America's most prestigious such event.
Russian pianist Arcadi Volodos has been known for high-powered Liszt performances and for gee-whiz transcriptions of works like Mozart's Rondo alla turca that seem to add an impossible collection of polyphonic lines to the music. All that could have been expected from this 2003 recording of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 23, was another big, powerful interpretation to join the others already out there.
This 2014 Decca release of two famous Russian piano concertos, Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor and Sergey Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3 in C major, cannot be faulted for a lack of practice, because Behzod Abduraimov has played these works on numerous occasions. In 2009, he won the London International Piano Competition with his fiery reading of the Prokofiev, and in 2014 he took the Tchaikovsky on tour internationally, so there's only a question of how fresh the playing can be after numerous performances. Chalk it up to youthful resilience or personal charisma, but Abduraimov shows abundant energy and brilliance, qualities that aren't worn down by the physical demands of these works. If anything, he appears to relish the opportunity to play them with different conductors and orchestras, each time giving his all in collaborative efforts that have won critical praise everywhere he has performed.