F. Busoni, Piano Concerto, G. Ohlsson, Cleveland Orchestra, C. von Dohnányi (Telarc, re-released in 2002)
As excited as I was to hear this piece, in all its ungainly glory, what became clear in this performance is that this concerto can be a trial for the ears. Unwieldy in its proportions -- the introduction before the first solo entrance goes on forever -- there may not be enough bang for the buck when it is all said and done. Ohlsson had the piece mostly in hand, conquering the necessity of giving the solo part, at times, a scope equivalent to that of the entire orchestra, although there were a few minor blips here and there and the coordination with conductor Rossen Milanov, last heard with NSO in last year's Messiah, was not always optimal. This was most pronounced in the rather silly fourth movement, which devolves at times into an Offenbach galop and then a Rossini-overture crescendo, but perhaps too often the Lisztian excesses of the piece go too far. The Washington Men's Camerata was mostly solid in the last movement, on the text from the final scene of the verse drama Aladdin by Adam Oehlenschläger, which Busoni had long considered setting as an opera, although when the tenors were exposed at one point, the sound was not pretty. In the score, Busoni directs that the chorus should be "invisibile," a request that apparently could not be honored, since the singers were placed in full view in the chorister seats above the stage.
Anne Midgette, Pianist Ohlsson brings elegance to a whiz-bang performance of massive Busoni (Washington Post, November 21)
---, Pianist Garrick Ohlsson on Busoni’s 70-minute concerto: ‘A noble, beautiful work’ (Washington Post, November 20)
This program repeats Friday and Saturday night in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.