Piano Concerto in G minor, Op.33
The Golden Spinning Wheel, Op.109
Pierre-Laurent Aimard (piano)
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Recorded between 20-26 October 2001 in Het Concertgebouw, Amsterdam
CD No: TELDEC CLASSICS 8573 87630-2 Duration: Reviewed: November 2003
Dvořáks Piano Concerto Aimard & Harnoncourt (Teldec)
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
While there is never any suggestion that Dvořák isnt one of the most popular of composers, his reputation tends to rest on the last three symphonies, the cello concerto, Slavonic Dances, a couple of chamber works and an aria from Rusalka. The shame is that there are many more wonderful pieces of his to delight the ear and touch the heart. One such is the urbane piano concerto, which brims with good cheer, rustic vitality and, as ever with Dvořák, a fund of memorable tunes. Critics have pointed to the composers unidiomatic writing for the piano. While this may be true, sometimes such unorthodox methods give a truer portrait of the creator.
Dvořáks piano concerto, although it was championed by the late Rudolf Firkuný, and the work was given high-profile attention by Richter and Carlos Kleiber for EMI, and András Schiff plays it, is not a regular in the concert hall and pianists arent queuing up to play it. Yet, although it is far from being a lost cause, it does need to lose its Cinderella tag. The collective talents of the searching and enquiring minds of Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Nikolaus Harnoncourt tease out the magical qualities of Dvořáks music both musicians cherish the composers personality. Needless to say, we are given what Dvořák actually wrote (Vilém Kurzs revision of the solo part held sway for a good many years) and without cuts.
Dvořáks is not an heroic concerto, rather the piano is integrated, a role which suits Aimards nimble fingers and his delight in subtly shaded figuration, Harnoncourt bringing out detail and dynamics in abundance, all pointing up Dvořáks expressive heart and rhythmic kick. The spacious first movement merges energy and lyrical asides, the slow movement is a nocturnal wonder, quite Chopinesque, and the finale is joyous, the coda playful.
The vivid colours and sheer inventiveness of Dvořáks four late symphonic poems based on ballads of Erben show the composer at the height of his powers and originality, a setting for orchestra of a literary source words transformed into music. Harnoncourts feel for orchestral effect and sonority brings off a kaleidoscopic performance, antiphonal violins a joy, the Concertgebouw Orchestra in agile and characterful form.