Piano Concerto No.2 in G minor, Op.16
Piano Concerto No.3 in C, Op.26
Evgeny Kissin (piano)
Recorded January 2008 in Royal Festival Hall, London, on 17th & 18th (Piano Concerto No.2) and on 24th & 25th
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: July 2009
CD No: EMI 2 64536 2
Duration: 62 minutes
Ashkenazy is of course extremely familiar with these two concertos, having recorded them as part of the set of five with André Previn in 1974. The tempos adopted here mirror those recordings. For the beginning of the third-movement ‘Intermezzo’ textures become rather more leaden, in response to Prokofiev’s heavier orchestration, though this is quickly righted. Kissin has all the notes easily under his fingers, performing even the most demanding passages without appearing taxed. Now and then he declines the opportunity to revel in some of the composer’s more sardonic writing, playing relatively straight – an approach that leaves the finale of the Third Piano Concerto slightly lacking in humour.
Again, this work is given a technically spotless interpretation, the piano sparkling in response to a lyrically sweet opening from the winds before a series of crisp, ebullient exchanges between piano and orchestra are emphasised by the slightly dry acoustic. Again Ashkenazy seeks to bring out the woodwinds, most successfully in a solemn passage near the start of the third movement; when this music returns he is equally keen to stress its transformation into something more affirmative when it soars in the strings.
Piano and orchestra are very much as-one in these works, helped by mostly realistic sound levels and a willingness on Kissin’s part to exercise restraint where appropriate – not a quality you would usually associate with the Second Concerto! As a result these are keenly prepared and effective readings, brilliantly played and, for the most part, idiomatic.