SHOSTAKOVICH Piano Concerto No 2 SCARLATTI; PROKOFIEV Piano sonatas
Winner of the 2015 Tchaikovsky Competition, Dmitry Masleev delivers his six chosen Scarlatti sonatas, all in the minor mode, with a nostalgic, pre-Historically Informed tinge that could work equally well in, say, Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons. Nothing sensational or sensationalist here, but the way he negotiates the twists, turns and subtle cornerings of the harmonic invention is totally disarming and without a trace of self-consciousness. Hear, too, the bustling energy when required, which never tips over into gaudy display, and the faultless repeated notes that never degenerate into mere machine-gun rattle. This is not merely competition-winning pianism but highly accomplished and communicative musicianship.
The Prokofiev sonata gives Masleev the chance to show off the more metallic extremes of articulation and colour, which he does with aplomb and without neglecting the balance between power and poetry. Perhaps I would have welcomed a more cushioned touch in the early stages of slow movement, but overall this is a nicely exploratory performance, always exquisitely graded in touch and pedalling.
The cheeky athleticism of the Prokofiev finale suggests a born Shostakovich player. And so it proves. Masleev has his own ideas of how to articulate and colour details in the Second Concerto, at the service of a convincing sense of drama and pacing. True, the slow movement may not be as magically suspended as in Alexander Melnikov’s account for Harmonia Mundi. But the darting articulation of the finale is a constant delight. Nor are the Tatarstan National Symphony Orchestra under Alexander Sladkovsky content to sit on the sidelines; their contributions are incisively etched and beautifully blended. Melodiya’s ultra-close-up recording could be faulted but it undeniably shows Masleev’s colouristic palette to maximum effect, both here and in the solo pieces.
By the time this review appears Londoners will have had the chance to hear Masleev in Liszt and Tchaikovsky. For myself I’m eager to discover whether live encounters will live up to the considerable promise of this debut recording.