PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No 2 TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Concerto No 1
As word began to trickle out from Fort Worth during the 2013 Van Cliburn Competition, her name kept coming up: the young Italian who had to be heard to be believed. And though she was awarded the silver medal rather than the gold, as she toured Stateside the buzz continued to grow. In a word? Beatrice Rana is fierce!
And not only as a pianist but as a fully developed artist of a stature that belies her tender years. If you’ve not heard her pre- and post-competition solo recordings (Chopin and Scriabin on ATMA Classique; Schumann, Ravel and Bartók on Harmonia Mundi), you don’t want to miss her concerto debut, held aloft in inimitable style by Antonio Pappano and the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia.
This is a Prokofiev Second to conjure with: shapely, subtle, nuanced, musical in every detail. Even via the medium of recording you can sense the hushed focus of the orchestral musicians, intent on reflecting every gesture of the soloist. Rana’s lithe and nimble interpretation restores the humanity to this often brutalised score. Her originality is nowhere more evident than in the first-movement development-cum-cadenza, where it’s impossible to imagine what is coming next. At the climactic moment, with nowhere else left to turn, Pappano and the Romans arrive in a dazzling display of apocalyptic sonorities that simultaneously overwhelms and consoles. The remarkable thing is what this hand-in-glove collaboration still has in store.
There’s a menacing, dry, hyper-articulate Vivace that seems over before it has begun, followed by a rhythmically incisive Intermezzo of Mendelssohnian delicacy, its glissandos as fine as cobwebs, all of it culminating in a finale that sheds new light on this concerto’s architecture and emotional cohesion.
Space limitations preclude a description of this bejewelled imperial Russian Tchaikovsky Concerto, its life and breath emanating not from any straining after novelty but from a fresh, close reading of a beloved score we all thought we knew. I can’t think of another recent concerto release that, beginning to end, affords greater pleasure. Bravissimo tutti!