Prokofiev: Piano Concertos Nos 1, 3 & 4

Vadym Kholodenko (piano); Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra/Miguel Harth-Bedoya (Harmonia Mundi)

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Piano Concertos Nos 1, 3 & 4
Vadym Kholodenko (piano); Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra/Miguel Harth-Bedoya
Harmonia Mundi HMM 907632   70:33 mins

Personality, thought Stravinsky, was Prokofiev’s strongest quality. Vadym Kholodenko, 14th Van Cliburn Competition gold medallist, has plenty of it, albeit not close to what we know of the composer’s cheek as pianist. Though his playing is always lucid, never muddy, Kholodenko looks at these three works through late-Romantic eyes in the lyric passages. I like his thoughtfulness in the usually skittish theme to which the First Piano Concerto settles, after a less than Puckish early cadenza; Kholodenko then takes the moonshine of what was early on labelled a ‘footballish’ concerto – though, now, we now see it as a compliment, Prokofiev must have taken it disparagingly. The Fourth is by contrast more gymnastic; it was commissioned, but never played, by Paul Wittgenstein – who had lost his right arm in the First World War. The booklet note should have taken in more up-to-date research on the subject concerning Wittgenstein’s attitude to a work he never played.

Kholodenko keeps his balance here on the high wire while the orchestral lines, well shaped by Harth-Bedoya, do most of the singing. If the slow movement is not to seem doodly, though, it needs more of a forward-moving line through it. Sound for these two works is close and rather dry, not unsuitable for the nature of the pieces; the Third Concerto, recorded nearly two years later, sets the orchestra some way behind the soloist. Again, the scintillating passages sound a bit straight, especially alongside such characters as Simon Trpčeski and Yuja Wang; Kholodenko’s claim to distinction lies in the poetry of the many introspective moments.

David Nice