KHACHATURIAN; PROKOFIEV Piano Concertos
Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto has never been more popular but for her second concerto collaboration on disc the young Armenian-born Nareh Arghamanyan has come up with a refreshingly individual take on the piece, soft-grained, spacious and full of colour. Eschewing the volcanic knockabout of Denis Matsuev, she also sidesteps the cooler nonchalance which, for me at least, makes Jean-Efflam Bavouzet’s reading one of the less compelling entries in his complete cycle. Whether self-consciously bubbly or dreamily withdrawn, Arghamanyan’s pointing of line is intensely individual, always super-articulate and without percussiveness. Granted, the lack of forward momentum won’t please everyone – the likes of William Kapell had different priorities – but she is greatly assisted by an up-and-coming maestro who has lately conducted The Love for Three Oranges at the Paris Opéra. Audiophile sound helps too: her warm, deep-pile piano tone is set against an orchestral backdrop of unusual clarity and refinement.
The Prokofiev is actually placed second in physical format, something of a surprise given that Khachaturian’s Piano Concerto remains deeply unfashionable (his Violin Concerto has been relatively well served in the recording studio). Those critics amenable to its populist style have tended to hold fast to classic renditions of the distant past and, in truth, Arghamanyan is not in the young Kapell’s league as purveyor of blistering bravura. That said, she’s no slouch either and, although the music is less tautly conceived than in 1946, Khachaturian’s exotic orchestral fabric glitters more persuasively in today’s higher-fi. It was apparently Alain Altinoglu’s idea to replace the flexatone doubling the violin melody in the second movement with a ‘whistling’ musical saw. Julia Wesely’s cover art is nothing if not original and there are helpfully detailed booklet-notes.