Brilliant, incisive, determined, sensitive, majestic playing
T. D. Owen | London United Kingdom | 06/23/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Buy this disc for the variations op 2 alone. I cannot imagine any pianist bettering the spring, the power, the snap and delicate wheeling fingerwork in the climax of this piece. The four Scherzi are excellent as well but there are many other versions out there including Rubinstein, Pletnev live etc. But if you want to hear a new 14 minutes of out and out virtuosity - and something to compare to Liszt's "Don Juan" fantasy - buy this. Schumann was right when he said "hats off gentlemen, a genius" and you will understand why when you hear Demidenko playing this opening gambit by Chopin..."
(+) Uneven Scherzos--Cracking Mozart Variations
C. Pontus T. | SE/Asia | 04/15/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"When on top form, Demidenko is one of the greatest living Chopin players. In January 1993, this luckily was the case when he recorded the four Ballades and Third Sonata at the Snape Maltings (Chopin: Ballades; Third Sonata). Some three years earlier, he committed the four Scherzos plus 'Schweizerbub' and 'Là ci darem la mano' Variations (adapted for solo piano by Mikuli and augmented by Demidenko himself) to disc. Again, the venue was the Snape Maltings, but at this time neither the artistic nor the sonic results were nearly as consistently successful as on the latter occasion.
As always with Demidenko, there are a number of masterful features to revel in--a gorgeous Third Scherzo (especially in the angelic Trio sections), an exquisitely reflective Fourth Scherzo, and an absolutely cracking version of the Mozart Variations that easily constitutes the high point of the disc (at Helios price, enough to motivate the entire outlay!). Alas, there is also an unusually lame First Scherzo, a pedestrian Second Scherzo, and an annoyingly mannered account of the 'Schweizerbub' Variations. Further on the minus side, the Snape Maltings venue, which more often than not gets the very best out of the engineers, here rather contributes to the somewhat distant and blurry sound picture.
Consequently, this disc provides further proof to two points--that Demidenko can be a superlative Chopin interpreter, and that his variance is quite significant. Tracks 4-6 can be recommended without reservation, but for unleashed renditions of the abundant virtuosity of the first two Scherzos Demidenko remains safely distanced by Pogorelich and Pletnev.
TIMINGS: Scherzos--10:31, 10:14, 7:41, 10:57; Variations--6:54, 15:58
REFERENCES: Scherzos--Pogorelich (Chopin: Four Scherzi), Pletnev (Pletnev Live at Carnegie Hall)"