Recorded during live concert performances, Lang Lang's second Telarc release justifies all the positive buzz surrounding this young pianist's rapidly ascending international career. He brings plenty of finger power and long-lined drama to Rachmaninov's ubiquitous Third Concerto, yet takes plenty of time to let the lyrical, soaring tunes spin without an inkling of self-indulgence. He admirably adjusts the piano part to accompany when he doesn't bear the melodic burden, and he gets more expressive mileage from transitions than many pianists do. For once, the thicker, more difficult first movement cadenza doesn't sound unwieldy and elephantine. The piano is a little too prominent in the mix next to Temirkanov's sensitively detailed, flowing orchestral support. While Lang Lang has not fully internalized the quivering underbelly of Scriabin's passionate keyboard writing, his poised and secure readings of 10 Etudes still boast plenty of dynamism, idiomatic nuance, and roaring, Horowitz-like octaves. Watch this pianist!
Sergei Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30 (colloquially known as The Rach 3) is famous for its technical and musical demands on the performer. It is one of the most difficult works for piano ever written; it has the reputation of being the most difficult concerto in the entire piano repertoire.
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.
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev has established himself as one of the most dynamic and virtuosic performers of his generation, and his program on this RCA album with Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic is ideally suited to his extraordinary abilities. The pairing of Sergey Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor and George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue is a natural one, particularly because of the works' shared post-romanticism (note Rachmaninov's influence on Gershwin's slow theme in the Rhapsody), as well as for the dazzling writing for the piano in both works. Of course, the challenge for Matsuev is to make his part appear effortless, and he succeeds so well in both performances that listeners may be a bit blasé about his playing, taking it in without really considering what knuckle-busters these pieces really are.
Claudio Abbado was undeniably the supreme Mahler conductor of our time. With his Lucerne Festival Orchestra he has set new standards in the field of classical music, especially in the interpretation of works by Gustav Mahler. The core of the orchestra is provided by the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, itself an élite body of players. Soloists like violinist Kolja Blacher, clarinettist Sabine Meyer, oboist Albrecht Mayer, violist Wolfram Christ, cellist Natalia Gutman, the Hagen Quartet and members of the Alban Berg Quartet to name just a few, make the Lucerne Festival Orchestra a star-studded ensemble.
Every year, the Berliner Philharmoniker hold a kind of classical-music fête with a bright, cheerful concert to end the season. In 2009 about 22,000 people had come together at the Berlin Waldbühne to enjoy the traditional summer picnic concert. The theme of the evening was “Russian rhythms”, and star conductor Sir Simon Rattle, the Berliner Philharmoniker and Yefim Bronfman, one of the most famous pianists in the world today, presented a superb selection of Russian music.
It is extremely hard for any new recording to compete with the stunning 1967 Berlin account that Argerich made with the Berliner Philharmoniker under Abbado… Lang Lang certainly equals the boldness, power and communicative quality of Argerich’s account. Under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle the Berliner Philharmoniker is highly persuasive and sympathetic. Not for the first time the woodwind excel - marvellous. - Michael Cookson; www.musicweb-international.com