PROKOFIEV Piano Concertos Nos 1, 3 & 4 (Kholodenko)
Compared alongside the fast and faceless performances in Vol 1 of the Kholodenko/Harth-Bedoya/Fort Worth Prokofiev concerto cycle (3/16), Vol 2 offers noticeable improvement, if not consistent satisfaction.
In the First Concerto, the pianist tosses off the first movement’s relentless machine-like passagework with driving incisiveness and characterful wit. The Impressionistic haze that Kholodenko conjures up in the Andante assai couldn’t be more apt, stylistically speaking. However, his arch hesitations and tenutos trivialise and undermine the acerbic character of the finale’s tarantella.
One can say the same for the heart-on sleeve point-making in the Third Concerto’s central variations. But the third movement’s myriad tempo changes are assiduously effected and the simultaneously swirling solo/orchestra passages seem perfectly in sync. I say ‘seem’, because the piano unduly dominates the balance throughout, as it does in the First Concerto as well.
The piano-heavy balance is less of a problem in the Fourth Concerto, probably because of how well the orchestra shines on its own. Take, for example, the carefully gauged string balances at the second movement’s outset, where Harth-Bedoya leans into the gnawing dissonances, or the brass section’s ear-catching timbral diversity in the third movement (who is that fabulous first trumpeter?). Kholodenko’s suave dispatch of the outer movements’ toccata-like sequences reveals as agile and well-drilled a left hand as you’d expect from a Van Cliburn Competition Gold Medallist but I miss the edgy brilliance and rhythmic energy one hears from Yefim Bronfman, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Olli Mustonen, Michel Béroff and (best of all) Rudolf Serkin.