SALONEN: Helix for Orchestra. Piano Concerto. Dichotomie for piano solo.
MUSSORGSKY-HOROWITZ: Pictures at an Exhibition. LISZT: Sonata in B
BAX: Symphonic Variations (1916-18). Concertante for Piano (Left Hand)
and orchestra (1949)
RACHMANINOFF: Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30. WEBER:
Op. 79. LISZT: Hungarian Fantasy.
Yefim Bronfman and conductor/composer Esa-Pekka Salonen have collaborated for many years, and their friendship culminated in a concerto written for Bronfman in 2007 on a commission from the New York Philharmonic, the BBC, Radio France, and the NDR Hamburg. The premiere was in New York in February 2007, and this recording was made during concerts in Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles in May/June 2008. What a fascinating concerto it is! Layer after layer of intriguing ideas are tossed about, with strong often raucous percussion adding to the melee. It sounds incredibly difficult to play, and we can assume this is the definitive performance of a concerto that must be considered a major, challenging addition to the repertory. In addition, we have a short orchestral work (9:34) called Helix written in 2005 with the assistance of a software program called Sibelius. Salonen writes that, "the form of Helix can be described as a spiral or a coil or, more academically, a curve that lies on a cone and makes a constant angle with the straight lines parallel to the base of the cone." It begins softly and in a most complex way reaches a stunning climax. Of equal importance is Dichotomie written in 2000. This massive two-movement solo piano work (Mécanisme/Organisme) is vital, dynamic and compelling—a major addition to the piano repertory. Again we have a staggering performance from Bronfman. This is a stunning disk. Don't miss it!
Vladimir Horowitz had many of his concerts recorded for his own use,
and many of these "private" recordings have already been issued
commercially. In 1988, a year before his death, Horowitz donated his
of live recordings to Yale University. This is the first of three planned
releases in RCA's Carnegie Hall collection, offering the pianist's own
remarkable transcription of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition as
well as Liszt's B minor sonata. He recorded Pictures for RCA
in 1947, and the label also issued a live Carnegie Hall performance from
23, 1951. Horowitz's famous 1932 recording of the Liszt sonata was joined
by a more expansive commercial recording made in 1977. This new issue
of both seems superfluous. Of course Horowitz is in staggering form technically,
but these are edgy performances. The Mussorgsky is from a concert April
2, 1948, the Liszt from March 21, 1949. In the latter, Horowitz makes
an unexplained cut of more than 20 bars. No effort was made by producers
to eliminate the numerous coughs heard throughout—and these are
annoying. Staunch admirers of Horowitz surely will wish to have this
mid-price issue; others
should stick to his other versions. Future scheduled releases are in
September 2009 (Schumann Fantasy, Balakirev's Islamey,
Chopin's Barcarolle and Liszt's St. Francois merchant sur les flots),
and in January 2010 (Haydn Sonata in E flat, Beethoven Sonatas 8 and
A most welcome issue is Ivory Classics' CD devoted to live performances by Earl Wild with the Florida Philharmonic. Rachmaninoff's Concerto No. 3 is from a concert April 25, 1981, the other two from concerts in April 1980. Wild is in top form—I prefer this performance to his famous 1965 recording conducted by Jascha Horenstein. Weber's brilliant Konzertstïck is a natural for Wild, and in this performance of Liszt's Hungarian Fantasy he adds the virtuoso embellishments he used in his earlier two commercial recordings. Excellent stereo sound, focused on the piano. A splendid issue!
R.E.B. (June 2009)