4 & 5 very good, 1 a bit wayward
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 02/06/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As great an admirer of Demidenko's as I am, and as fitted for the music of Prokofiev as he is as exemplified by his marvelous recordings of Piano Concertos Nos. 2 and 3, I was a little let down by his playing in Piano Concerto No. 1. Not that it wasn't wonderfully athletic and virtuosic--lots of notes never seem to bother Demidenko--but I was a little put off by his tugging and pulling at tempi. Take, for instance, his terrific accelerando at about 3:20 of the first movement of No. 1. What was the point of that huge rush, particularly since it is immediately followed by one of the few points of repose that early in the concerto? Also, I have question about his lack of true pianissimo anywhere in the work. There are plenty of opportunities (not to speak of indications for pp from the composer) and yet that never really quite happens. It doesn't measure up, in my book, to the performance of Ashkenazy in his 5-concerto set, which remains my favorite, along with those of Boris Berman and Yefim Bronfman.
PCs Nos. 4 & 5, weaker and less performed works, are actually given quite good performances here and there seems to be less waywardness. Demidenko seems less intent on intimidating with his virtuosity here but he is fully up to the athletic demands of both pieces, and he displays impressive coloristic ability, particularly in the slow movements which, I must say, are gorgeously played by both piano and orchestra alike. The finale of No. 5 contains an exciting toccata that Demidenko plays with relish and its abrupt ending leaves us gasping with surprise and pleasure.
Hyperion's sound is what one has come to expect from their engineers--rich, warm, lifelike and with a nice feel for the ambience of the hall.