RACHMANINOFF: Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30. Piano Concerto No. 4 in G minor, Op. 40.
Leif Ove Andsnes, piano; London Symphony Orch/Antonio Pappano, cond.
EMI CLASSICS 40516 TT: 67:14
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TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, Op. 23. LISZT: Piano Concerto No. 1 in E flat
Alice Sara Ott, piano; Munich Philharmonic Orch/Thomas Hengelbrock, cond.
DGG 477 8779 TTL: 54:56
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BEETHOVEN: Sonata No. 3 in C, Op. 2. Sonata No. 23 in F minor, Op. 57 "Appassionata." ALBÉNIZ: Évocation, El Puerto, Féte-Dieu á Séville from Iberia. PROKOFIEV: Sonata No. 7 in B flat, Op. 83. CHOPIN: Etude Op. 25 No. 1 in A flat. Polonaise No. 6 in A flat, Op. 53. Grande Valse brillante No. 2 in A flat, Op. 34 No,. 1
Lang Lang, piano
SONY CLASSICAL 886977190`12 (2 disks) TT: 55:29 & 59:19
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HAYDN: Sonata No. 47 in B minor, Hob. XVI: 32. BRAHMS: Variations on a Theme by Paganini, Op. 35. SCRIABIN: Sonata No. 5 in F-sharp, Op. 53. Etude in D-sharp mninor, Op. 8 No. 12. PROKOFIEV: Sonata No. 6 in A, Op. 82. Sonata No. 7 in B flat, Op. 83. CHOPIN: Etude in C-sharp minor, Op. 25 No. 7. MENDELSSOHN-LISZT-HOROWITZ: Wedding March and Variations from A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Alexander Gavrylyuk, piano
VAI AUDIO VAIA 1256 (2 disks) TT: 101:00
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BACH-BUSONI: Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565. MOZART: Sonata in D, K. 576. SCHUBERT: Sonata in A, D. 665/Op. 120. RACHMANINOFF: Etudes-Tableaux, Op. 39. Prelude in G-sharp minor, Op. 32 No. 12. BALAKIREV: Islamey. MOZART-VOLODOS: Concert Paraphrase on Rondo alla Turca
Alexander Gavrylyuk, piano
VAI AUDIO VAIA 1272 (2 disks) TT: 41:00 & 62:28
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Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes recorded Rachmaninoff's Concerto No. 3 with Paavo Berglund and the Oslo Philharmonic in 1995, and now, with much publicity, has returned to the composer. His recent recording of Concertos 1 and 2 with the London Symphony directed by Antonio Pappano, was a best-seller, and now we have this second recording of Concerto No. 3 coupled with Concerto No. 4. Andsnes has a terrific publicity agent; there was a lengthy article about how Andsnes has restudied the score and listened to many other recordings of the work, to find a new approach to this massive concerto. Actually there is little to distinguish this performance from most others, and the coruscating brilliance of Argerich, Horowitz, Volodos, Rachmaninoff, and Van Cliburn (particularly in his live recordings) is not to be found. Nor will one find the magic in this performance of Concerto No. 4 heard in Earl Wild's definitive 1965 version. Audio is adequate but hardly demonstration quality.

German-Japanese pianist Alice Sara Ott has made two highly acclaimed recordings for DGG, the Chopin waltzes, and Liszt's Transcendental Etudes (REVIEW). Now we have her first concerto recording, a coupling of two familiar works she has played countless times in her budding career. The Liszt is the most successful; she does, indeed, have an affinity for his music, but the Tchaikovsky, recorded live in November 2009, is a sometimes eccentric interpretation that underplays virtuosity. Ott is not helped by the boxy sound of the Tchaikovsky. Skip this one.

Now that Lang Lang has a huge contract with Sony, the label has gone all out with his first release for them: live concert performances recorded February 27 - March 1, 2010 in Vienna's Musikverein. In addition to this 2-CD set, Sony has released the recital on DVD and Blu-Ray, the latter including a 3-D video; I have not experienced any of these. The recital is totally satisfying, beginning with one of Beethoven's earlier sonatas followed by the mighty Appassionata. The three Iberia excerpts are exquisite, and we have the expected virtuoso reading of the Prokofiev sonata. Three Chopin encores are played to commemorate the composer's 200th anniversary. It seems Lang Lang is finally settling down to solid musicianship and not performing with as many of the exaggerations that marred many of his live performances.

Young Ukrainian pianist Alexander Gavrylyuk (b. 1984) finally has taken the spotlight on the international concert scene. His recent appearances included what apparently was a dazzling account of Prokofiev's Concerto No. 2 with the Royal Concertgebouw directed by Mikhail Pletnev. Several years ago VAI VIDEO issued two recitals Gavrylyuk gave at the Miami International Piano Festival, May 2005 and May 2007. Both of these have been mentioned on this site: 2005 (REVIEW) and 2007 (REVIEW). It is fascinating to watch this astounding pianist play—no phony mannerisms, just solid musicianship perfectly adjusted to the music he is playing. And his virtuosity is stunning—under his hands the big showpieces are tossed off with the greatest of ease. It's a great show and should not to be missed. VAI now has issued the soundtracks of both concerts on CD, where they are equally impressive—and the two CDs of each concert sell for the price of one. I imagine most collectors would prefer to watch the magic on the DVD versions.

R.E.B. (December 2010)