SCRIABIN: Five Preludes, Op. 15. Sonata No. 3 in F# minor, Op. 23. MEDTNER: Sonata-Reminiscenza in A minor, Op. 38 No. 1. STRAVINSKY: Three movements from Pétrouchka.
Yevgeny Kissin, pianist
RCA 65389 (F) (DDD) TT: 59:55

LISZT: Piano Concerto No. 2 in A major (New York Philharmonic/Dimitri Mitropoulos, cond. Sept. 5, 1943). SCHUMANN: Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54. (New York Philharmonic/Victor de Sabata, cond. Mar. 18, 1951). WEBER: Konzertstück in F minor, Op. 79 (NBC Symphony Orch/Erich Kleiber, cond. Dec. 20, 1947).
MUSIC & ARTS CD 1174 (F) (ADD) TT: 70:25

RACHMANINOFF: Piano Concerto No. 1 in F# minor, Op. 1. Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18.
Leif Ove Andsnes, pianist; Berlin Philharmonic Orch/Antonio Pappano, cond.
EMI CLASSICS 74813 (F) (DDD) TT: 58:32

BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat, Op. 18. (NBC Symphony Orch/Vladimir Golschmann, cond.). SCHUBERT: Waltz in B, D. 145 No. 2, Waltz in B minor, D. 145 No. 6. Waltz in E, D. 365, No. 26. Waltz in F, D. 365 No. 32. German Dance in B flat, D. 783 No. 6, German Dance in B flat, D. 783 No. 7,Waltz in F, D. 365 No. 34. Ländler in D, D. 7634, No. 1. RACHMANINOFF: Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 19 (Edmund Kurtz, cellist).
NAXOS 8.110767 (B) (ADD) TT: 65:17


Yevgeny Kissin's new RCA CD offers an extraordinary performance of the suite from Petrushka (spelled Pétrouchka by RCA—using the original French name) arranged by Stravinsky for Arthur Rubinstein in 1921. We also have minor Scriabin in the form of the Op. 15 preludes, the composer's 21-minute Sonata No. 5 which marked the beginning of Scriabin's distinctive style, and Medtner's rambling Sonata-Reminiscenza, also known as eight "Forgotten Melodies." Recorded at SWR Studios in Freiburg, Germany, Agust 7/8, 2004, with producer Jay David Saks and engineer Tony Faulkner, this CD boasts superlative piano sound, brilliant and full. Music by other Russian composers could have filled the CD: the playing time is barely one hour.

Listening to Claudio Arrau's recordings made during the last two decades of his career (he died in 1991 at the age of 88) it's easy to forget that during his prime he was a fantastic, imaginative virtuoso as evidenced in these live recordings made 1943-1951. With enthusiastic support from Dimitri Mitropoulos and the New York Philharmonic, Arrau offers a dynamic account of this Liszt's second concerto, and a dazzling performance of Weber's Konzertstück, a work that was a favorite of his. Arrau recorded it for RCA in 1946 with Désire Defauw and the Chicago Symphony, and in 1960 with Alceo Galliera and the Philharmonia Orchestra for EMI.   This vivid performance with Erich Kleiber on the podium is a welcome addition to Arrau's discography. All of the recordings on this new CD have been issued before, but here, in restorations by Maggie Payne, sound better than ever. Collectors may wish to investigate another live recording of Liszt's Concerto No. 2 with Arrau, the NYP and conductor Guido Cantelli (Archipel 260).

October 2003 we reviewed Leif Ove Andsnes' recording of the Schumann and Grieg piano concertos with the Berlin Philharmonic directed by Mariss Jansons (REVIEW), superb performances of both works with excellent recorded sound, the Schumann recorded live, the Grieg in sessions. I was not impressed with Leif Ove Andsnes' recording of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 (with Paavo Berglund and the Oslo Philharmonic) when it was issued some years ago (now inexplicably available in EMI's Great Artists Of The Century Series). Now we have the Norwegian pianist's new recordings of Rachmaninoff's first two concertos, the first from studio sessions May 5, 2005, the second from live performances June 3-4, 2005, in Berlin's Philharmonie. In spite of the pianist's front-page publicity and feature article in the September BBC Music magazine in which we read about his particularity affinity for Rachmaninoff, these performances are hardly "unrivalled" as proclaimed in the fawning publicity, nor does Andsnes find anything new in the music or challenge interpretive concepts of the past. These new recordings are, indeed, very fine, but Kristian Zimerman's DGG disk of both with Ozawa and the Boston Symphony are superior—and much better recorded (REVIEW). For both concertos I surely would not want to be without Earl Wild, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Zimerman, or the historic recordings by Benno Moiseiwitsch or the composer. This new recording does have a dubious "bonus" which is an "encore track" (Polka from The Age of Gold by Shostakovich, from the pianist's solo disk to be issued early next year). You must go on line and register to hear this.

Naxos continues their Great Pianists series with another disk of William Kapell RCA 1946-1952 recordings. These new remasterings have a more natural piano sound than previous issues, thanks to Mark Obert-Thorn's expertise. All of these have been issued before on RCA and other labels, but many are out-of-print so this issue is welcome. For copyright reasons, it is available in the U.S. only as an import.

R.E.B. (October 2005)