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Gershwin: Piano Concerto in F; Ravel: Piano Concerto in G; Piano Concerto for the left hand

Denis Kozhukhin; Orchestre de la Suisse Romande/Kazuki Yamada (Pentatone)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Gershwin • Ravel
Gershwin: Piano Concerto in F Ravel: Piano Concerto in G; Piano Concerto for the left hand
Denis Kozhukhin (piano); Orchestre de la Suisse Romande/Kazuki Yamada
Pentatone PTC 5186 620 (hybrid CD/ SACD) 74:55 mins

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There’s terrific piano playing here, especially in the Gershwin, which comes over in all its wild, technicolour glory. OK, so it sprawls, but who cares? When Schoenberg says of you ‘there can be no doubt that he was a great composer,’ you can let the brickbats bounce off with a merry laugh. Denis Kozhukhin also has the mighty measure of Ravel’s Left Hand Concerto, delivered with no sign of strain and in general with a good grasp of its peculiar architecture. My only query is over his idea of linking the first two melodic stretches of the cadenza. Ravel wanted to conjure a concerto for one hand that would be bigger than the one for two, and the space separating these two passages needs to remain neutrally unmelodic.

Sadly, the G major Concerto is overall less successful. At the start, the poor piccolo struggles to be heard against the soloist’s arpeggios, and elsewhere, too, the piano is over-dominant. But the most unhappy moment comes in the slow movement’s wonderful opening solo, inspired by Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet, where Kozhukhin adopts the irritating pianistic trick of playing the right hand fractionally after the left – until the orchestra enters, and the hands synchronise. A pity this was not thought through.

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Roger Nichols