WORKS: Pictures at an Exhibition; Sonata; Dumka; The Seasons
PERFORMER: Lars Vogt (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 7 54548 2 DDD
Piers Lane’s disc collects three of the most spectacular, colourful virtuoso works by Russian composers in the piano repertoire, and delivers them with tremendous panache. Recorded in a church, with a fair sense of its resonance, the sound is rich, brilliant and fiery, if not ideally clear; the playing abounds with physical energy but is also warm and expressive. Rarely has Mussorgsky’s poor Polish Jew snivelled more abjectly, or the scene been set for the artist’s ghost in ‘Cum mortuis’ with a greater sense of the unearthly. The three dances from Petrushka have a more joyous, dancing character than the famous version by Pollini, and Balakirev’s crazy sallies up blind alleys in Islamey are articulated with abandon.
Second-prize winner in the last Leeds Competition, Lars Vogt lacks Lane’s energy and character in Pictures. He plays with scrupulous taste and pulls all his punches, which is surely the last thing this music needs. He’s still on his best behaviour in Tchaikovsky, whose heartfelt appeal consequently lacks immediacy. But all credit to Vogt for including the very respectable short Sonata of his young wife Tatiana Komarova.
A thoroughly well-groomed disc, beautifully recorded with less studio resonance and much greater clarity than Lane’s, though the musical rewards are far smaller. Adrian Jack