(The) Lost Piano Concerto of Pavel Pabst

A fan blows the dust off the Pabst Concerto – to reveal the clichés

Author: 
Bryce Morrison

(The) Lost Piano Concerto of Pavel Pabst

  • Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
  • Hamlet
  • Concerto for Piano and Orchestra

Eugene Pabst’s Piano Concerto received its premiere in 1885 under Anton Rubinstein, with the composer as soloist. Yet despite such advocacy (Tchaikovsky considered Pabst a pianist of “divine elegance”) the work was coolly received and left to gather dust until 2005 when it was revived by Panagiotis Trochopoulos. But once more, despite the pianist’s energy and commitment, it is difficult to work up enthusiasm for music so cliché-ridden and predictable. True, the central Andante cantabile has its romantic moments and the dancelike finale (which owes much to Rubinstein’s Fourth Piano Concerto) is intermittently sparkling. But there is little of the flair and ingenuity of Pabst’s brilliant paraphrase on the Waltz from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin (forever associated with Shura Cherkassky) and matters are hardly helped by a dim recording.

On more familiar ground the orchestra lacks finesse in Tchaikovsky’s Fantasy Overture Hamlet and the virtues of Trochopoulos’s performance of Rachmaninov’s Paganini Rhapsody (impressively fleet and fluent in the reeling virtuosity of Var 15 and with a nice sense of the pizzicato marking in Var 19) are largely negated by poor sound and undistinguished orchestral playing. The catalogue bursts at the seams with more brilliant and characterful Paganini Rhapsodies and Cameo Classics’ amateur presentation (there are no notes on the Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov) makes this disc a missed opportunity. Perhaps Hyperion, in their superb Romantic Piano Concertos series, might take up the Pabst.

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