PROKOFIEV: Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 16. Piano Concerto No. 3 in C, Op. 26.
Evgeny Kissin, piano; Philharmonia Orch/Vladimir Ashkenazy, cond.
EMI CLASSICS 64536 TT: 61:48
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CHOPIN: Fantasie in F minor, Op. 49. Scherzo No. 2 in B-flat minor, Op. 31. Valse brillante in E flat, Op. 18. Impromptu No. 3 in G, Op. 51. Ballade No. 4 in F minor, Op. 52. Polonaise in A flat, Op. 53 "Heroic." LISZT: Rhapsodie espagnole. Polonaise No. 2. Grand Galop Chromatique. Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6 in D flat.
Gyorgy Cziffra, piano
MEDICI ARTS MM0033 TT: 79:51
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PROKOFIEV: Piano Concerto No. 1 in D-flat, Op. 10. Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 16. Piano Concerto No. 3 in C, Op. 26. Piano Concerto No. 4 in B-flat, Op. 53. Piano Concerto No. 5 in G, Op. 55.
Boris Berman, piano (concertos 1, 4 & 5); Horacio Gutiérrez, piano; Royal Concertgebouw Orch/Neemi Järvi, cond.
CHANDOS 10522(2) (2 disks) TT: 75:14 & 48:09
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KABALEVSKY: Piano Sonata No. 1 in F, Op. 6. Piano Sonata No. 2 in E flat, Op. 45. Piano Sonata No. 3 in F, Op. 46. Piano Sonatina in C, Op. 13 No. 1. Piano Sonatina in G minor, Op. 13 No. 2.
Alexandre Dossin, piano
NAXOS 8.570822 (B) TT: 74:17
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'LEGENDARY RUSSIAN PIANISTS"
KONSTANTIN IGUYMNOV (1873-1948) (Chopin, Scriabin, Schumann, Tchaikovsky The Seasons.) HEINRICH NEUHAUS (1886-1964) (Chopin Concerto No. 1). SAMUIL FEINBERG (1894-1962) (Scriabin Concerto). MARIA UDINA (1890-1970) (Bach/Liszt/Beethoven). GRIGORY GINZBURG (1904-1961) (Liszt Ruins of Anthens fantasy). VLADIMIR SOFRONITZKY (1901-1963) (Scriabin). VLADIMIR HOROWITZ (1903-1989) (Chopin/Liszt). LEV OBORIN (1907-1974) (Mozart Concerto No. 20/Tchaikovsky Concerto No 1). MARIA GRINBERG (1908-1978) (Beethoven Concerto No. 5). YAKOV FLIER (1912-1977) (Chopin/Rachmaninoff/Kabalevsky). ALEXANDER IOKHELES (1912-1978) (Falla/Honegger). YAKOV ZAK (1913-1978) (Brahms Concerto No. 1). SVIATOSLAV RICHTER (1915-1997) (Beethoven/Liszt/Schubert). EMIL GILELS (1916-1985) (Chopin/Prokofiev/Beethoven). VICTOR MERZHANOV (b.1919) (Rachmaninoff Paganini Rhapsody). RUDOLF KERER (B. 1923) (Prokofiev Concerto No. 1). TATIANA NIKOLAYEVA (1924-93) (BACH: Concerto No. 1). BELLA DAVIDOVICH (1928) (Saint-Saëns Concerto No. 2) LAZAR BERMAN (1930-2006) (Liszt). DIMITRI BASHKIROV (b. 1931) (Mozart Concerto No. 24), IGOR ZHUKOV (b. 1936) (Brahms: Concerto No. 2). VLADIMIR ASHKENAZY (b. 1937) (Prokofiev Concerto No. 2). NELLY AKOPIAN-TAMARINA (b. c1944) (Brahms/Schumann). VICTORIA POSTNIKOVA (b. 1944) (Rachmaninoff/Arensky). NIKOLAI DEMIDENKO (b. 1956) (Scriabin/Prokofiev). ANDREI GAVRILOV (b. 1956) (Beethoven Concerto No. 3). MIKHAIL PLETNEV (b. 1957) MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 9). EVGENY KISSIN (b. 1971) (Liszt/Schumann). NIKOLAI LUGANSKY (b. 1972) (Rachmaninoff).
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 9014 (25 CDs)
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I have long treasured a BBC Proms performance of Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 2 played by Evgeny Kissin with Yuri Temirkakov conducting, and now lightening strikes again in this stunning live performance recorded in Royal Festival January 17-18, 2008 with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy. Of course the fiendish technical hurtles are totally mastered, and Kissin's fantastic reading is only challenged by Arcadi Volodos, who has yet to make a commercial recording of the work. The accompaniment is perfect as one might expect from a conductor who played this concerto often and recorded all five in 1974-75 with André Previn conducting. This is Kissin's third recording of Piano Concerto No. 3 (the previous were conducted by Andrey Chistiakov and Claudio Abbado), and automatically it is among the finest ever made of the work. Although these are called live recordings, there is no audience sound whatever, and no applause. High recommended!

Incredible virtuoso Gyorgy Cziffra (1921-1994) is heard in performances from a live recital given in Tokyo April 23,1964. Cziffra had a technique that astounded, and his interpretations always were controversial. He was at his peak at the time of this concert. The Chopin in this recital is powerful but personal, the Liszt staggering displays of virtuosity with Cziffra not hesitating one bit to embellish Liszt's already flamboyant scores. This is a remarkable display of fantastic but sensitive playing, not to be missed by the pianist's legion of admirers. He recorded all of this music commercially, but these live performances are very special—and don't forget Cziffra's videos, a London TV program (REVIEW) and other live performances (REVIEW).

The Chandos recording of Prokofiev's concertos is shared by Boris Berman (Nos. 1, 4, 5) and Horacio Gutiérrez, with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra directed by Neemi Järvi. Concertos 2 and 3 were recorded May 7-12, 1990; the others May 8-12, 1989. These are part of the label's Prokofiev series that featured all of the symphonies with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra as well as the two violin concertos (Lydia Mordkovich), ballet excerpts and other works. The five piano concertos are brilliantly played, and the participation of the great Dutch orchestra is a major plus. These are distinguished recordings many of which are now being reissued at mid-price.

Until fairly recently, Dimitri Kabalevsky's fame rested on the Colas Breugnon overture, orchestral suite The Comedians, and his charming Piano Concerto No. 3. Now more attention is being paid to other music, in particular his four symphonies (the second of which was championed by Toscanini) (REVIEW). Now we have this first complete recording of his piano sonatas. written 1927-1946. The first three are official "sonatas," the two early sonatinas are also included. Sonata No. 3 was a favorite of Vladimir Horowitz who recorded it in 1947 for RCA. Pianist Alexandre Dossin, who has won many prizes including First Prize and Special Prize at the Martha Argerich International Piano Competition in 2003, gives brilliant performances of all of this music, and the Naxos engineering crew has done an exemplary job. Recommended!

A major issue for those interested in historic piano recordings is the gigantic Brilliant Classics issue of Legendary Russian Pianists—24 (!!) CDs and at super-budget price! These pianists indeed are "legendary" but one wonders why other famous pianists weren't included in the collection, including Joseph Lhévinne, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Simon Barere, and Benno Moiseiwitsch. It does include performances by a number of pianists who had significant careers in the West—Lazar Berman and Vladimir Horowitz (represented by early Chopin and Liszt), as well as in more recent times, Evgeny Kissin, Nikolai Lugansky, Andrei Gavrilov, Nikolai Demidenko and Mikhail Pletnev. Three disks each are devoted to mostly live performances by Sviatoslav Richter (Beethoven, Schubert and Liszt), and Emil Gilels (Beethoven, Prokofiev and Chopin), and two disks to Scriabin played by Vladimir Sofronitzky (1901-1961) Many of the other recordings also are live including a dazzling 1961 performance of Prokofiev's Concerto No. 2 played by Vladimir Ashkenazy with Gennady Rozhdestvensky on the podium. Indeed, many of the artists in this set are" legendary," and collectors will welcome this opportunity to hear many otherwise unavailable performances. Brian Crimp made many of the transfers from original sources and did his job well. Orchestral sound, particularly in the earlier recordings, is often strident as one would expect to hear on Russian recordings of this era. The 40-page booklet provides much information about each pianist as well as recording dates and venues. This massive set is essential for pianophiles.

R.E.B. (June 2009)