There is a purposeful stride to the opening of the Tchaikovsky – mercifully played in its original version, before Siloti got his cutting claws into it – that bodes well. Such promise is maintained, for Xiayin Wang has all the technical facility to deal with the virtuosic passages and she also shapes lyrical moments with affection but without indulging them. It’s an impressive performance overall, full of bravura and sweet sentiment, well-accompanied by the Scottish National Orchestra and Peter Oundjian with plenty of detail and colour to relish. The first-movement’s big cadenza (five minutes here) is very accomplished from Xiayin Wang who successfully integrates its glitter and fireworks into the whole.
In the lengthy slow movement Tchaikovsky includes introductory and returning solos for violin and for cello, here respectively Maya Iwabuchi and Aleksei Kiseliov (the latter placed with the leader), musicians of deep response who create a tender ‘song without words’ to which Wang becomes an intimate collaborator before more-agitated emotions take hold, for a while. The animated Finale has plenty of dash without it being an Olympic sprint (although the coda would secure Gold), the music’s point and profile retained.
In all honesty, Aram Khachaturian’s Piano Concerto (1936), written for Lev Oborin, doesn’t do much for me, but it does have a flavour all of its own – exotic, picturesque, harmonically spicy – and Xiayin Wang brings much sympathy and vividness to the solo part, and the RSNO and Oundjian are painterly in their descriptive detailing. I must say that this account of it is more persuasive than any I have previously heard, and Khachaturian’s use of a bass clarinet and a flexatone (the latter a sort of ‘musical saw’ in aural effect) for the opening of the slow movement is particularly atmospheric, figurations in the strings anticipating the Spartacus ballet score, from twenty years later, and in particular the ‘Adagio’ that would become the theme music for BBC Television’s The Onedin Line. Elsewhere the Concerto is tuneful and gaudy, the latter quality likeably so here, and with the Finale having a hitherto unsuspected correspondence with the music of Poulenc, his flippant side.
However you react to this piece, there is no doubting the excellence of the music-making – in both Concertos – and, between them, Brian Pidgeon and Ralph Couzens have secured production values and recorded sound of the highest class.