Schumann • Dvorák: Piano Concertos
The young Swiss pianist Francesco Piemontesi has risen through the BBC New Generation Artists scheme as a star in the making, and his performances in these two warm-hearted concertos amply display his pure-spirited, intelligent artistry.
The two accounts, nevertheless, are extremely different. The Schumann was recorded live at the Barbican, in London, which does little to help the sound; in the Dvoπák (the original published version from 1883, not Vilém Kurz’s much-tweaked later edition) the entire atmosphere is transformed. This work – too rarely performed and much criticised, perhaps unfairly, for a structure that seems to sprawl in comparison with the composer’s other concertos – fares better than its perennially popular companion.
The Dvoπák Concerto finds the composer in a quasi-symphonic mode, expounding a drama in which the piano is not so much in contest with the orchestra as part of it. Here the performers sensibly focus on making the most of the dramatic qualities that are there: it is in the conversations between piano and orchestra, highlighting the tension for all he’s worth, that Piemontesi shines brightest, showing a fire in his pianistic belly that doesn’t come through as much in his Schumann. The emotions in the latter seem to be ironed slightly too smooth, as if Eusebius is getting the upper hand over Florestan, the effect compounded by rather sluggish tempos infused by Jiπí B∑lohlávek with too little vitality. The piano playing is refulgent and refined in tone, immaculately phrased, melodies sculpted with the expressiveness of a Lieder singer. Nevertheless, Piemontesi makes an even more satisfying impression when he lets his hair down a little.