PROKOFIEV Piano Concertos Nos 1 & 3
Trpčeski and Petrenko are a tried-and-tested team, and their Prokofiev recordings are every bit as polished and satisfying as I remember from live accounts (of the Third Concerto) in Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall. The recorded balance is also extremely well judged, giving the piano due prominence but never at the expense of the colours and shapes Petrenko draws from his responsive orchestra.
These are above all thoroughly musical accounts, beautifully rehearsed so that orchestra and piano can have an equal share in the action. The First Concerto gives swing and shape to the big tuttis – the three ‘whales’ as Prokofiev called them – that support the structure of the First Concerto. When the soloist takes the spotlight, it’s with polite firmness and with a strong sense of fun and fantasy. And so it goes on. In the Third Concerto Trpčeski’s fine articulation allows him to free a number of passages from traditional but unmarked pedalling, which is certainly in the Prokofievian spirit as well as the letter of the score. Similarly, he shows that some traditional dynamic emphases aren’t necessary to idiomatic characterisation. He does nevertheless allow himself those fractions of extra time that guarantee clarity and accuracy in the most demanding passages, and shifts of gear – whether abrupt or gradual – are negotiated with consummate skill, superbly coordinated with the orchestra. Never is there any risk of derailment. Nor does the interpretation ever lapse into automatism.
There is a downside, however, in an occasional loss of impetus and tension. As a whole these recordings do come across as a little safe. And that’s even before moving over to Vladimir Krainev’s super-flamboyant display, where every passage is driven to the max: be it by supersonic speed, biting articulation, hushed awe or industrial-strength power. True, the Russian recording is highly artificial, placing the listener as it were under the piano lid, then walking him/her round the platform to within touching distance of whichever orchestral section or soloist has the line. But there is so much sheer panache on display that it is hard not to listen with bated breath and dropped jaw.
So if you want a reminder that Prokofiev was a colossal show-off, Krainev is your man. But if you prefer a friendlier, more civilised experience, then Trpčeski and Petrenko have a great deal to offer. The Overture on Hebrew Themes is a nice bonus, idiomatically pointed and shaped throughout.