Vadym Kholodenko and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra play Prokofiev

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Sergey Prokofiev
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Sergei Prokofiev
WORKS: Piano Concertos Nos 2 & 5
PERFORMER: Vadym Kholodenko (piano); Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra/Miguel Harth-Bedoya
CATALOGUE NO: Harmonia Mundi HMU 807631

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Vadym Kholodenko’s album of Prokofiev’s two most technically challenging concertos, well performed though they are, has the misfortune of being released on the heels of superlative recordings of both these works. He surmounts the Second Concerto’s formidable challenges impressively, with only a hint of a rallentando at the cadenza’s steepest hurdles. The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra matches his qualities with faultless and clearly articulated playing, though the rather nonchalant treatment of the Concerto’s opening theme does not bode well; even its fortissimo return after the cadenza sounds lumbering rather than baleful. A more fiery approach might have better complemented Kholodenko’s rather cool approach, which, rather than treat the Concerto as a fearsome beast to be grappled with seems intent to make it as tastefully musical as possible. Beatrice Rana’s recent Warner recording with Antonio Pappano (on Warner Classics) finds far more of the Second’s innately ferocious and menacing qualities.

The Fifth Concerto, if anything, needs even more character from both performer and orchestra if it is not to sound merely rebarbative. Kholodenko at least avoids making it brutish, though his steady tempo makes the first movement sound pedestrian; his interpretation only really comes alive with the mercurial second movement. Too often, though, one admires Kholodenko’s technique, rather than being inspired by his performance – which frankly pales next to the recent Mariinsky recording with Sergei Babayan and Valery Gergiev in Puckishly scintillating form.

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Daniel Jaffé