anonymous | Los Angeles | 10/10/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"this review concerns the piano concerto recordings. Pletnev and Fedoseyev and the Philharmonia play like a house on fire, and Pletnev delivers a refreshingly classical interpretation of the music..appropriate for music by a composer who loved Mozart.
Pletnev delivers a big performance that is, at the same time, utterly transparent at all times. No matter how treacherously difficult the music gets, he never comes close to losing his sange froide. But the performance is never cold. Pletnev and Fedoseyev capture Tchaikovsky's mercurial quality as well as anyone and better than most.
Most of all though, it just sounds as if Pletnev and Fedoseyev thought long and carefully about these performances..they understand this music from the inside out and nothing escapes them. Phrasing, in particular, has classical clarity and awareness that VERY few musicians every manage to find in these concertos. At the same time, this is deeply thrilling playing, especially in the outer movements. There is always a wonderful sense of occasion, and kudos to the Philharmonia, playing on the edge of their seats without ever breaking a sweat.
Additional kudos to the recording engineers, for making an ideal recording in every respect: ambience, inner-detail, attacks, dynamic range, overall perspective, solo perspective, are all simply perfect.
I have to confess to a soft-spot for Tchaikovsky's second concerto, which is, to me, a significantly better concerto than the first, although the first is much better-known...and Pletnev just plays the be-jeebers out of it, especially in the last movement, music and playing that would move a stone. You'll be on the edge of your seat yourself.
In short, this recording was when it was made, and still is, at the very top of Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto recordings."
A pleasant overall experience
RS | 08/06/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Mikhail Pletnev is best known as a pianist, and then for founding the Russian National orchestra and being its first conductor. Some of his recordings as a conductor (such has his symphonic cycle of Tchaikovsky, which I have never heard, by the way) have been reviewed as poor, but these are certainly not poor. Granted, Pletnev only conducts two and plays in the rest.
That said, they are, in general, wonderful recordings. The playing in each of them is excellent, and the conducting in the Pathetique, despite Pletnev's reputation for being a better pianist that conductor, is very good. The symphony is excellent, worth the price of the set alone, and is reminiscent at times of the Mravinsky/Leningrad recording that has become something of a legend. In fact, I daresay this is better than the Mravinsky. He gets the tempi about right in it, as well, taking a bit faster tempo than I'm used to in the third movement, which I find I actually prefer. That is not as true for the Serbo-Russian March, which seems a bit fast to me. It's a fine recording, to be sure, and at times the tempo is actually very appropriate, and the playing more than makes up for the times when it isn't.
To be honest, many of the piano works I have little experience with, except the first concerto. However, I can say that the playing in the piano concertos is excellent, and Fedoseyev seems to have less of a problem with tempi than Pletnev. I have become quite a fan of Pletnev's version of the first concerto, and the second, while just as well recorded, I find to be less engaging. It is nonetheless a striking work and deserves a place in anyone's collection, and this is a good start. The Seasons (or 'musical pancakes', as Tchaikovsky put it), I find, are good pieces to listen to when I need some quiet music that doesn't distract me. The playing in them is nearly flawless, and they are pretty good pieces, given that each was written in one sitting ('quick to prepare and serve', Tchaikovsky said). Actually, nearly all of Tchaikovsky's piano music is like this. He wrote them for the money only, and considered them to be amateurish and unremarkable (though he cared little for the 1812 Overture and Fifth Symphony, as well, so don't take that to mean they are bad pieces). As such, they are considered to be nonessential, extraneous pieces. They are good to have in your collection, however, and given the quality of the other pieces, even if you're unimpressed with them, it is well worth the price. Finally, there is the arrangement of the Sleeping beauty. I can say little about the arrangement itself, not being all that familiar with the ballet and how it originally sounded, but I will say what I've said for the rest. It's played nicely. That pretty much sums up the set as a whole. I'm sure there are better, but the Pathetique justifies the price alone."