CHOPIN: Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Op. 11. Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21.
Claudio Arrau, pianist;WDR Cologne Orch/Otto Klemperer (Concerto 1); "Philharmonic-Symphony Orch"/Fritz Busch (Concerto 2).
MUSIC & ARTS CD 1158 (F) (ADD) TT: 71:42
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BACH: Partita No. 1 in B flat, BWV 825. SCRIABIN: Sonata No. 4 in F sharp, Op. 30. FRANCK: Prélude, Chorale and Fugue. SCHUMANN: Fantasiestücke, Op. 12.
Earl Wild, pianist
IVORY CLASSICS 75002 (F) (DDD) TT: 74:15
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POULENC: Trois mouvements perpétuels. Trois Novelettes. Valse en ut majeur. Pastourelle. Suite francaise. Presto en si bémol. Sonata pour piano à quatre mains. L'Embarquement pour Cythère. Suite en ut majeur. Trois pièces. Mélancolie. Humoresque. Trois Intermezzi. Villageoises. Francaise. Bourrée au Pavillon d'Auvergne.
Gabriel Tacchino/Jacques Février, pianists
EMI CLASSICS ENCORE 85457 (B) (ADD) TT: 75:07
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TCHAIKOVSKY: Impromptu. Berceuse. Tendres reproches. Danse caractéristique. Méditation. Mazurque pour danser. Polacca de concert. Dialogue. Un poco di Schumann. Scherzo-fantaisie. Valse bluette. L'Espiègle. Echo rustique. Chant élégiaque. Un poco di Chopin. Valse à cinq temps. Passé lointain. Scène dansante (invitation au trépak). CHOPIN: Nocturne No. 20 in C# minor, Op. posth.
Mikhail Pletnev, pianist
DGG B0004284 (F) (DDD) TT: 69:47
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Here are four more releases of great interest for those who collect piano recordings, the first containing live broadcast performances by Claudio Arrau from October 25, 1954 (Concerto 1) and December 10, 1950 (Concerto 2). Arrau (born in Chile February 6, 1903; died June 9, 1991) was a dynamic virtuoso during the first four decades of his career, evidenced by recordings made during that time. As he aged, his technical security diminished, his interpretations became slower and more mannered. These Chopin performances find him in its prime with dazzling playing in the first concerto. Arrau recalled that this was the first time Otto Klemperer had conducted music of Chopin (probably the last as well). Concerto No. 2 is from a U.N. Human Rights Day Concert, with the New York Philharmonic, although not so identified on the disk. Both of these are major additions to the Arrau discography. Graham Newton's audio restoration is totally satisfactory.

Earl Wild, who this year celebrates his 90th birthday, continues to amaze. Completely recovered from heart surgery earlier this year, he is now planning a series of 90th birthday concerts this fall. Ivory Classics has just released a CD of live broadcasts from the 1940's (short works of Scarlatti, Mendelssohn, Daquin, Mussorgsky, Rachmaninoff, MacDowell and Chopin, with Liszt's Sonata as the featured work (74003), another containing Chopin's Ballades and Scherzi recorded in 1990 originally issued on Chesky (75001). But prime interest is a CD of recordings made May 23-25, 2004 in Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Buffalo, N.Y. This is labeled "Living History," and indeed it is as the then 88-year old pianist gives powerful readings of Bach, Scriabin, Franck and Schumann. This is playing on a grand scale with no indication of a diminution of technical prowess, an approach to the Franck and Schumann that some might find too athletic. Excellent sonics.

Another fine release in EMI's Encore series offers Poulenc's complete piano music in exquisite performances by Gabriel Tacchino, who studied with the composer. These recordings were made over a period of years, 1966-1983, but there's little difference in sonic quality. Jacques Février joins Tacchino in the Sonata for Four Hands and L'Embarquement pour Cythère. The limited CD notes give only basic information, but after all, this is a budget release.

Mikhail Pletnev gave a rather strange concert in Zurich's Tonhalle in June, 2004 playing Tchaikovsky's neglected Op. 72 18 pieces for piano, composed in in 1893, the year the composer died. Pletnev calls this set "a musical diary—filled with ideas and associations, then turning to thoughts about friends or to simple melodies that might occur to one while out walking." Two of the short pieces are impressions of Chopin and Schumann. Pletnev plays these miniatures beautifully before a super-quiet audience, and as an encore adds Chopin's Nocturne No. 20. There is room on the CD for Tchaikovsky's Dumka (made famous by Vladimir Horowitz's 1942 recording) and it would have made an appropriate filler.

R.E.B. (July 2005)