STRAVINSKY: Three Movements from Petrushka. SCARLATTI: Sonata in E, K. 380. Sonata in F minor/C major, K. 466. BRAHMS: Variations on a Theme by Paganini, Op. 35. RAVEL: La Valse
Yuja Wang, piano
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON B0014108 TT: 58:27
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TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 23. Piano Concerto No. 2 in G, Op. 44 (with two versions of the second movement). Piano Concerto No. 3 in E flat, Op. 75. Concert Fantasia in G, Op. 56. TCHAIKOVSKY-HOUGH: Solitude, Op. 75 No. 6. None but the Lonely Heart, Op. 6 No. 6.
Stephen Hough, piano; Minnesota Orch/Osmo Vänskä, cond.
HYPERION CDA 67711/2 (2 disks) TT: 65:39 & 75:31
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CHOPIN: Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Op. 58. Barcarolle in F sharp, Op. 60. Polonaise-Fantasy in A flat, Op. 63. Berceuse in D flat, Op. 57. Nocturne in B, Op. 62 No. 1. Nocturne in E, Op. 62 No. 2. Mazurka in F minor, Op. 63 No. 2. Mazurka in A minor, Op. 67 No. 4. Mazurka in C sharp minor, Op. 63 No. 3. Mazurka in F minor, Op. 68 No. 4
Stephen Hough, piano
HYPERION CDA 67764 TT: 73:08
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GERSHWIN: Rhapsody in Blue (original jazz band version orch. Ferde Grofé). Variations on I Got Rhythm (original manuscript version). Piano Concerto in F (jazz band version orch. Ferde Grofé).
Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano; Baltimore Symphony Orch/Marin Alsop, cond.
DECCA B 0014091 TT: 57:26
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CHOPIN: Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 35. Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Op. 58.
Olga Kern, piano
HARMONIA MUNDI HMU 907464 TT: 59:29
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For her second DGG release, young Chinese pianist Yuja Wang has a dazzling disk called "Transformation," referring to two of the works arranged by their composers for solo piano (Stravinsky and Ravel), and the Brahms set of variations on Paganini's famous Caprice No. 24. The two Scarlatti sonatas have nothing to do with the subject, simply charming interludes between the other works. Wang is a very beautiful young woman with a fashion model appearance, but don't let this fool you. She has power and her playing is spectacular as she tosses off the music from Petrushka Stravinsky arranged for Arthur Rubinstein, and La Valse in a performance that makes it sound as if there are two pianos. Fine recorded sound. A superb release!

Volume 50 in Hyperion's commendable series The Romantic Piano Concerto returns to standard repertory, all of Tchaikovsky's works for piano and orchestra in live performances by Stephen Hough with the Minnesota Orchestra conducted by Osmo Vänskä. These are high-powered accounts—just check the opening pages of the first concerto—but the subtle pages are not rushed. The brilliant Concert Fantasy should be heard more often—what an exciting work it is! A plus on the new release is inclusion of the complete Concerto No. 2 with its extensive solos for violin and cello in the second movement, as well as this movement in the Siloti edition and Stephen Hough's own edition, so you can program whichever one you like. Theset is filled out with Hough's transcriptions of two familiar songs, None but the Lonely Heart and Solitude. The latter surely doesn't amount to much as arranged for solo piano—check Stokowski's orchestral transcription, particularly in Charles Gerhardt's Reader's Digest recording if you can find it. This new Hyperion set has strong competition from Mikhail Pletnev's complete set which is now available at budget price, and remember you can watch Pletnev's dynamic live performances of Concertos 1 and 2 and the Concert Fantasy on Arthaus Musik DVD.

Both Stephen Hough and Olga Kern have won major competitions, but Kern has a greater affinity for Chopin evident from her new recording of Sonatas 2 and 3. Hough's CD is a collection of later works of the composer including Sonata No. 3. Technically both pianists are in top form, but those who love Chopin surely will prefer the Kern version of the mighty sonata,although it does seem odd the latter doesn't contain more music—total playing time is less than an hour. Excellent audio on both releases.

This past season, Jean-Yves Thibaudet collaborated with Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony in Gershwin concerts and the results can be heard on Decca's new release. I would hardly call these performances "thrilling" as described on the CD jacket, but they are of considerable interest as Gershwin oddities. Rhapsody in Blue is played in the original version for jazz band and piano, although as heard on this recording, the orchestra sounds like a larger ensemble. I Got Rhythm Variations is taken from the original manuscript, quite different from the heavily orchestrated version familiar to most collectors. Concerto in F is another matter. It is played in Ferde Grofé's arrangement for Paul Whiteman's band, quite different from the composer's own version, which has some added lines and touches of percussion that seem out of place. Thibaudet throws himself into all of this energetically, with strong support from the BSO and Alsop. Audio spotlights the piano.

R.E.B. (June 2010)