Piano Concertos Nos 2 & 4
Schaghajegh Nosrati (piano); Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra/Robert Farkas
CPO 555352-2 71:51 mins
Although hardly core repertoire, Anton Rubinstein’s Fourth Concerto has had its champions over the years: Rachmaninov and Josef Hofmann performed it, and Cherkassky and Marc-André Hamelin, among others, have made recordings. Its orchestral textures and piano techniques come out of Liszt and look forward to Tchaikovsky, but it lacks memorable musical ideas or, to put it bluntly, good tunes, and its reliance on sequence and formula can become wearing.
Still, Schaghajegh Nosrati plays with affection and makes the most of the simple song-like theme in the slow movement, with limpid tone, and a sure feeling for rubato. Even she can’t give the first movement cadenza a sense of direction and cumulation, but her technical skills are impressive, and the playfulness of the rondo finale gains added sparkle from her impeccably crisp fingerwork. There’s a good relationship between her and the orchestra, both in the common purpose of the ebb and flow of the music and in the recorded sound.
The Second Concerto, from 13 years earlier, leans more towards the models of Schumann and Mendelssohn. Harmonies are more clear-cut and textures more transparent, exposing a few less tidy patches of ensemble in the orchestra, although Nosrati embraces this style with as much engagement as before. Once again, Rubinstein’s tendency to fall into four-square phrase structures doesn’t do him many favours, and even when he comes up with a more striking idea – the theme in the central Adagio for instance – he can’t seem to work out what to do with it.