Monday 19 July 2010

CD Reviews (The Straits Times, July 2010)

TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Concertos


Minnesota Orchestra / Osmo Vänskä

Hyperion 67711/2 (2CDs)


In this new cycle of Tchaikovsky’s four piano concertos, British pianist Stephen Hough adopts a “brave new world” approach. The familiar warhorse First Concerto is taken at close to breakneck speed, clocking in at 32 minutes (most take around 35). While some look for maestoso (majesty) in the 1st movement’s big tune, Hough’s eschews sentimentality and cannot be accused of self-indulgence or protractedness. The Second Concerto, maligned simply because it isn’t the First, positively benefits for this lean muscularity. This set offers three versions of the lovely 2nd movement (almost a triple concerto with substantial violin and cello solos) – Tchaikovsky’s original, Alexander Siloti’s ruthlessly truncated edition and Hough’s idealised vision.

A fascinating listen, especially with a CD player’s programming button. The 2-movement Concert Fantasia and single-movement Third Concerto also receive excellent performances, and Hough adds two of his song transcriptions. The audience in these “live” performances accords very enthusiastic applause after each concerto, and deservedly so.

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