PROKOFIEV Piano Concertos Nos 2 & 5
This is an auspicious first instalment of an apparent projected complete Prokofiev piano concerto cycle. The fresh, robust sound of the Fort Worth Symphony under Miguel Harth-Bedoya, beautifully recorded here, is ravishing throughout. Certainly, as the supporting ensemble of the Van Cliburn Competition from the beginning, their easy habitation of these scores, always a competition repertoire requirement, is second nature. Vadym Kholodenko, gold medallist of the 2013 Cliburn, is at a stage in his career when his artistic maturation seems to burgeon from recording to recording. Here he is in his element, with forthright, lithe and virile performances.
The Fifth Concerto, in which its composer had least confidence, has been the object of some attention of late, notably in the complete set by Bavouzet/Noseda. Kholodenko hasn’t Bavouzet’s variety of touch but imbues this sprawling piece with a winning sense of athletic playfulness.
Meanwhile, Kholodenko takes to the considerably greater technical and musical challenges of the Second Concerto like a duck to water. The titanic heft he brings to the Intermezzo adds a startling quirkiness to an overall original interpretation. To top everything off, he maintains a sense of desperate urgency throughout the finale, with a sort of grim determination characterising even its soaring lyrical sections, right up to the last cataclysmic measures. If in terms of imaginative realisation of this multifaceted score the recent Rana/Pappano Prokofiev Second has the edge, for a heroic reading of singular power, Kholodenko and Harth-Bedoya can scarcely be beaten. The luxurious and exquisitely dimensional sound reproduction, combined with hand-in-glove ensemble and scrupulous attention to detail, makes this a remarkable release, one whose disclosures multiply with repeated listening.