Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2 and Concert Fantasia in G performed by Eldar Nebolsin

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COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Tchaikovsky
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 2; Concert Fantasia in G, Op. 56
PERFORMER: Eldar Nebolsin (piano); New Zealand Symphony Orchestra/Michael Stern
CATALOGUE NO: 8.573462

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Naxos has already released two highly praised discs featuring the same couple of works. The earliest of these, by German pianist Bernd Glemser with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra under Antoni Wit, impressively brings structural cohesion to the Second Piano Concerto’s somewhat discursive first movement, though I find the tempo for the ensuing Andante con moto rather stolid and lacking in forward momentum. A more recent version from Konstantin Scherbakov and the Russian Philharmonic under Dmitry Yablonsky offers high-octane bravura playing by the Russian pianist, but the orchestral playing is far less refined. 

In many respects, this latest recording offers the best of both worlds. Eldar Nebolsin yields nothing to Scherbakov in terms of brilliance of technique, but his piano tone is richer and more subtle in its variety of colour. The extended cadenzas in the first movements of the Concerto and the Concert Fantasia exude great atmosphere and maintain a good sense of musical coherence. Throughout both works, interaction between soloist and orchestra is strongly characterised with some finely articulated woodwind playing. Indeed, apart from one unfortunate passage of over pedalling near the end of the first movement of the Concerto (19:34), Nebolsin hardly puts a foot wrong, and Michael Stern secures rhythmically vibrant playing from the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. It’s a pity, though, that the booklet does not identify the two wonderfully expressive string soloists in the Concerto’s second movement.

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Erik Levi