Wednesday, 18 October 2017

CD Review (The Straits Times, October 2017)

TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Concerto No.1
Royal Philharmonic / DARRELL ANG
Signum Classics 441 / ****1/2

Singaporean conductor Darrell Ang has been busy in the recording studio, and here he conducts London's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in Tchaikovsky's evergreen First Piano Concerto. There are hundreds of recordings of this concerto, but he does a fine job in marshalling the forces to support young Romanian pianist Alexandra Dariescu, who is no slouch herself. 

This is a very idiomatic reading of a well-worn warhorse which does not seek to shock and awe by presenting so-called new insights or vastly divergent viewpoints. Instead musicality reigns, and its visceral thrills and spills are splendidly judged and presented to marvellous. It is thus well worth many listens.

Its coupling is a suite of seven dances and scenes from Tchaikovsky's ballet The Nutracker transcribed by the Russian pianist-conductor Mikhail Pletnev. These are highly virtuosic takes on very familiar music, and Dariescu gets her hands full in the March and Trepak (Russian Dance), which are far more treacherous than one imagines on paper. 

Her playing does not eclipse Pletnev's own stupendous recording (on Melodiya) but she gets to the heart of the music with suitable panache. Listen to the closing Andante Maestoso (the famous Pas de deux) for one of Tchaikovsky's most heart-rending and rapturous melodies. This will make a nice addition to the Christmas stocking.   

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