RACHMANINOFF: Piano Concerto No. 1 in F# minor, Op. 1. Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Minor, Op. 40. Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43.
Simon Trpceski, piano; Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orch/Vasily Petrenko, cond.
AVIE AV2191 TT: 77:09
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LISZT: Liebestraum in A flat. Sonata in B minor. Mephisto Waltz No. 1. La lugubre gondola. BACH-LISZT: Prelude and Fugue in A minor.
Khatia Buniatishvili, piano
SONY CLASSICAL 73852 TT: 67:29 + DVD
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BACH: Keyboard Concertos Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6; Concerto for Flute, Violin and Harpsichord BWV 1044. Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D, BWV 1050. Italian Concerto in F BWV 973.
Murray Perahia, piano
SONY CLASSICAL 82429 (3 disks) TT: 55:05 / 55:13 / 55:18
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MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 23 in A, K,. 488. LISZT: Don Juan Fantasy. STRAUSS: Burlesque for Piano and Orhestra.
Alexander Brailowsky, piano; Boston Symphony Orch/Serge Koussevitzky, cond. (Mozart). Shura Cherkassky, piano (Liszt). Rudolf Serkin, piano; New York Philharmonic/Dimitri Mitropoulos, cond. (Strauss).
GUILD GHCD 2367 TT: 77:18
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There is no question that Simon Trpceski is a brilliant star on the current pianistic scene. He is a specialist in Rachmaninoff; his first recording, on EMI, featured that composer's music (REVIEW). His recent recording of the composer's Concertos 2 and 3 has been highly praised (REVIEW). Now he has completed his Rachmaninoff piano/orchestra set with Concertos 1 and 4 plus the Paganini Rhapsody. Of course we hear playing of the highest order, yet that extra spark is missing. It is unfortunate these were not recorded live, as Tripceski on the concert stage is dynamic indeed, evidenced by his thrilling live performance of Concerto No. 3 with the New York Philharmonic broadcast several years ago on the internet. .

Georgian-born pianist Khatia Buniatishvili, now in her mid-twenties, began playing the piano when she was three and gave her first "concert" when she was six. Winner of a number of competition prizes, she has concertized widely appearing in major festivals. This first solo disk under a new contract with Sony offers music of Liszt, and it is very special. Buniatishvili (pronounced "boo-niah-tee-SHVEE-lee") shows incredible imagination in these sensitive but dynamic performances. Liebestraum No. 3 here receives a remarkable imaginative performance, among the slowest ever recorded (5:28) yet there are fireworks in the central section. Her Sonata is among the best, and again her technical command is supreme. This Mephisto Waltz rivals the 1945 recording by William Kapell. Buniatishvili's CD is issued at mid-price and includes a DVD called "Franz Liszt: Sonata in B minor: A Faustina Dream - A Short Film Concept by Khatia Buniatishvili." In it she plays the sonata in a beautiful outdoor setting, speaks some mumbled comments on Liszt's music, and the over-produced video constantly displays very brief snippets of Buniatishvili wearing what must be her entire wardrobe. Very distracting, and unnecessary. Just play the CD and you'll be satisfied.

Murray Perahia's recordings of Bach's keyboard concertos were made in 2000-2001 in London's Lyndhurst Hall; other works in this set were recorded the following year. This have been highly praised, and this is a convenient relatively inexpensive (3 CDs for the cost of 2 mid-priced disks) way to acquire them.

Volume II in Guild's Great Pianists series features live recordings by Alexander Brailowsky (1896-1976), Shura Cherkassky (1911-1995) and Rudolf Serkin (1903-1991). Brailowsky specialized in Chopin and recorded much of that composer's music. He was an erratic pianist in his later years; I recall an undisciplined performance of Rachmaninoff's Concerto No. 2 many decades ago with the Baltimore Symphony under guest conductor Werner Janssen, although he might have been unnerved by the incompetence of the man on the podium. At any rate, on this new disk we hear aa sparkling performance of Mozart Concerto No. 23 from a broadcast June 26, 1945. Koussevitzky's tempi seem rushed, but this is a lovely performance. Shura Cherkassky recorded prolifically and many of his live performances have been issued. Here we have two different but very similar HMV recordings of Liszt's Don Giovanni fantasy from February 7, 1952 and March 1953, in both of which he displays his pianist wizardry. Rudolf Serkin, known primarily for his Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms and Schubert, also had a keen interest in other repertory, namely concertos of Reger, Bartók, Prokofiev and Strauss. The latter is represented by a dazzling broadcast of the Burlesque from Carnegie Hall February 9, 1958. He would record the work for Columbia in 1966 with Ormandy in Philadelphia, a performance still available from ArkivMusik.

R.E.B. (August 2011)