MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 23 in A. K. 488. RACHMANINOFF:
Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30,
For those who love the piano, this is essential. Russian pianist Grigory Sokolov (b.1950 in Leningrad) was a prodigy, acclaimed throughout Russia. He won the Tchaikovsky Competition in 1966. Although he gave hundreds of concerts in the United States to great acclaim, soon Russian officials would not permit him to come to the U.S. depriving us of the opportunity to hear this fantastic pianist. Now he has an agreement with DGG and they are releasing some of his live performances—already issued are two disks featuring Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin and Scriabin, and a DVD as well. . Now we have this CF offering a Mozart concerto from Salzburg January 30, 2005, and Rachmaninoff concerto from the BBC Proms in Royal Festival Hall July 27, 1995. The Mozart is as elegant as could be, but the Rachmaninoff is something very special indeed. This has played an important part in his career. It is a powerhouse but sensitive performance with two unique points. I have loved this concerto for decades, heard a number of performances live (including one with Horowitz / Rodzinski / Chicago Symphony in 1948) and have heard virtually all of he countless recordings—and reviewed many on this site CD INDEX. I am particularly enthused by the Arcadi Volodos Berlin recording with Levine (although his live BBC performance is slightly superior), the recent Yuja Wang / Gustavo Dudamel version is a knockout, and Evgeny Kissin's live video performance on YouTube is infinitely superior to his early Boston recording with Seiji Ozawa. Sokolov's performance is exceptional. He is one of the few pianists I know that play the alternate more difficult version of the brief ascending passage in the third movement shortly after bar 58 in the Schirmer score (8:29 into track 6 on this recording). Kissin also uses it in his YouTube video. Much more obvious is Sokolov's treatment of the descending octaves on the final page. Rachmaninoff provided an alternate more difficult version in the first five bars of these, writing each chord in quads rather than triplets (the composer uses the easier version in his recording). The only commercial recoding I know of that uses this challenging version is the early one by Andre Watts with the New York Philharmonic led by Seiji Ozawa. Sokolov and conductor collaborate perfectly in making something very special of the climax of the concerto preceding those final octaves, playing is not rushed, grandiose and passionate indeed. A fabulous performance that should be heard by all who love this music!!
A second disk, a DVD, contains a documentary film by Madia Zhdanova. It contains rare archival films including excerpts from Rachmaninoff Three with the Leningrad Philharmonic as well as the Tchaikovsky First. There are many interviews with teachers, friends and students, and the disk ends with mention of the pianist's wife, Inna, who died several years. She was a poet, and six of her poems are included in this documentary; texts and translations are provided in program notes in Russian and three other languages. Beautiful video, and production values are high. It would have helped in the English subtitle version if they had included the interviews; however, on screen texts are provided. It also would have been helpful had there been a detailed DVD track listing. There is no extra charge for the DVD.
R.E.B. (March 2017)