Piano Concerto in G
Piano Concerto No.5 in G, Op.55
3 Improvisations [for solo piano]
Francesco Tristano Schlimé (piano)
Russian National Orchestra
Recorded in April 2005 in the Grand Hall of the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatoire
Reviewed by: Morgan Hayes
Reviewed: February 2007
CD No: PENTATONE CLASSICS
Duration: 65 minutes
Created in the same year, 1932, and both following their respective composers’ Concertos for the Left Hand, these works, both in G major, make for an unprecedented but entirely appropriate coupling. The present team of Francisco Tristano Schlimé and Mikhail Pletnev point towards further similarities, with their preference for a rather soft-focused view of both scores.
Most notably, the slow movements of both concertos, in which a languidly beautiful main theme becomes drenched in right-hand filigree – briefly in the case of the Prokofiev, and more persistently in the Ravel. However, the overall impression is somewhat ‘ironed out’ – ‘hair-pin’ dynamics in the slow movement of the Ravel do not count for much, and the uneasy tension between the implied 6/8 left-hand and 3/4 right-hand is likewise underplayed.
Alexis Weissenberg, in his 1970 recording of the Ravel with Seiji Ozawa (among Weissenberg’s most successful concerto recordings), goes for an opposite extreme, conveying a sense of drama which can pass unnoticed in this most serene of movements. When set alongside illustrious predecessors (such as Argerich, Michelangeli and Weissenberg), the punchy finale can seem positively laconic in the new recording. There ought to be more of a jolt at the onset (it’s marked fortissimo!), but we get a whimper from the orchestra. Still, there are some ear-catching moments from Schlimé: the repeated notes at figure 4 (0’36”) are delivered with fantastic aplomb; there’s real fizz here.
On the occasion that Sviatoslav Richter took Prokofiev’s Fifth Concerto under his wing (he first played it in 1941, the work having been a “fiasco” [the composer’s description] up until that point) it could easily seem like one of the composer’s most sensational creations. Other less intense performances have not approached this summit (Richter recorded the work for Deutsche Grammophon). Schlimé and Pletnev are enjoyable enough, but I’m left craving for more emphatic accents and violent extremes, which would give the music a sharper profile. Just prior to the coda of the finale, Prokofiev indicates a whole bar of silence, a dramatic touch which is sadly bypassed on this recording – possibly an editing error?
Most distinctive are the 3 Improvisations that conclude the disc. In numbers 2 and 3, Schlimé (born 1981) takes his cue from the concertos, but I prefer the more extended first one which has touches of Keith Jarrett’s Köln Concert Part 1: more restrained than Jarrett, there’s a lovely feeling for atmosphere here: a natural ebb and flow which is immediately impressive.
And, with a fine recording of Berio’s piano works already to his credit, there can be no doubting that Schlimé is a very interesting talent.