PROKOFIEV: Piano Concerto No. 1 in D flat, Op. 10. Piano Concerto No.
2 in G minor, Op. 16. Piano Concerto No. 4 in B flat, Op. 53.
PROKOFIEV: Piano Concerto No. 3 in C, Op. 26. Piano Concerto No. 5 in
G, Op. 55.
BRITTEN: Les Illuminations, Op. 18. HENZE: Being
Beauteous. SCHÖENBERG: Foliage of the Heart, Op. 20. CASTIGLIONI: Terzina. SZYMANOWSKI: The
Cherry Trees, Op. 46b.
Ukrainian pianist Alexander Gavrylyuk (b. 1984) has won several prestigious competitions: the 1999 Vladimir Horowitz Competition, the 2000 Hamamatsu Competition, and the Arthur Rubinstein 2005 Competition. His artistry can be seen on two remarkable videos, one from the 2005 in the Miami International Music Festival (REVIEW), the other in the same venue two years later (REVIEW). Both of these display supreme virtuosity and musical insight. This past season he appeared with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Mikhail Pletnev in a stunning performance of Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 2 heard on Radio Nederland's Live at the Concertgebouw series. If you missed that, you have the opportunity now to hear Gavrylyuk playing the same work, along with Prokofiev's other four concertos, recorded in 2009 in Sydney's Opera House. Apparently some of what we hear is from live performances although just what isn't identified. Gavrylyuk has a particularly affinity for Prokofiev as evidenced by his performances of sonatas 6 and 7 from his Miami concert in 2005. These concerto performances are stunning by any standards, supported admirably by Ashkenzy's accompaniments (his own 1975 recording of all five concertos with André Previn on the podium remains in the catalog). Excellent sound on the new release, but even though on-screen it is a SACD, it is regular stereo with no sound from rear speakers. Highly recommended! I look forward to future issues by this spectacular pianist.
Alba's disk called Being Beauteous is a knock-out. This is a widely diverse program that takes its title two settings of a poem by Arthur Rimbaud set to music by Benjamin Britten (one of the 10 songs that make up Les Illuminations) and Hans Werner Henze's work of the same name, a fascinating 15-minute work scored for the unusual combination of soprano, four cellos and harp.We also have two brief pieces, Schönberg's Foliage of the Heart, and Niccolo Castiglioni's Terzina, a setting of 18th century text very much in the style of later Schönberg. The program ends with the five colorful songs of Szymanowski's The Cherry Tree, a neglected masterpiece. This varied repertory is sung to perfection and with consistent vocal beauty by the remarkable Finnish soprano Anu Komsi. This music demands a wide range, with stratospheric high notes, and many awkward intervals, all handled with the greatest of ease by Komsi, whose recorded repertory so far focuses on contemporary music, particularly from Finland. She is a soprano to watch, and you can if you go to YouTube where there are several videos. On Alba's SACD she is accompanied by various instrumentalists conducted by her husband, Sakari Oramo, who has an extensive catalog of superb recordings in wide-ranging repertory. Audio on Alba's SACD is outstanding, and complete texts are provided. A quality issue of fascinating repertory!
R.E.B. (August 2012)