Wednesday, 7 December 2016

CD Reviews (The Straits Times, December 2016)

TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Concerto No.2
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Peter Oundjian (Conductor)
Chandos 5167 / ****1/2

Coupled for the first time are perhaps the two most unfashionable and maligned Russian-school piano concertos ever composed. Tchaikovsky's Second Piano Concerto in G major (1882) has never replicated the success or popularity of its forerunner. Although extremely tuneful, casting it in the major mode often equated the music with a lack of pathos, not to mention gravitas. 

Its very long 1st movement cadenza is problematic for pianists. The slow 2nd movement is in effect a glorified piano trio while the finale is a slight and comedic dance (complete with chuckles that might have inspired Woody Woodpecker) more associated with Saint-Saens.   

The Armenian Aram Khachaturian's Piano Concerto in D flat major (1937) is unabashedly populist and lowbrow, using folk-flavoured melodies and razzle-dazzle pianistic effects to mask its inadequacies. Its slow movement however employs the flexatone, which produces a high-pitched wheezy tone when vibrated, to famous effect. 

Both concertos have had champions among the great pianists in the past; Cherkassky and Gilels in Tchaikovsky, Kapell and Lympany in Khachaturian. Young Chinese pianist Wang Xiayin however holds her own in these incisive and energetic, no-holds-barred performances, which are boosted with superior recorded orchestral sound. Wallow if you dare.    

No comments: