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Dip Your Ears, No. 79

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L.v. Beethoven, Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 3, Pletnev / Gansch / RNO
How much can an interpreter say anew about a piece played by just about every pianist under the sun and of which there are well over 100 different recordings to choose from? Beethoven’s Piano Concertos and Symphonies are the object of Mikhail Pletnev’s new recordings which Deutsche Grammophon will issue over the course of the next year. Pletnev, a superb and wilful pianist, would be the person to do just that – without necessarily distorting the music. Sometimes to triumphant and enjoyable effect (Scarlatti, Mozart), sometimes with more arguable success.

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Pletnev - Scarlatti

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Pletnev - Mozart
Sure enough, Pletnev does things just a bit different. Concertos No.1 in C-major, op.15 and No.3 in c-minor, op.37, from the first notes on, sound a little extra bold, a little extra fresh; capricious, perhaps, but with the light and joyful touch that made his Mozart so oddly irresistible. There is an insubordinate spark and a twinkle in his notes I don’t hear from other pianists. The performances appear faster than they already are – impetuous at times. And amid general beauty and excitement, Pletnev does have a few surprises to offer. The stuttering breakdown in the cadenza of the C-major concerto’s third movement is accentuated in such a way that it sounds like a genuinely different piece of music. Yet, these overly vigorous accents, syncopations, and the shifting of balances are supposed to be the soloist’s realm of fancy and they contribute rather than distract... and they make you listen closely to the music… something which isn't always a given in such warhorses. The RNO proves to be Russia’s finest orchestra (if not its most Russian) and Christian Gansch leads them through the concertos with aplomb, though notably as an extension of the soloist’s will. It’s a release that has me most eagerly anticipate the second installment (concertos 2 & 4) later this year.

DG 477 6415

And extended version of this review can be found on WETA's blog.

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