Prokofiev: Piano music (complete); Violin Sonatas

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Prokofiev
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Piano music (complete); Violin Sonatas
PERFORMER: Frederic Chiu (piano); Pierre Amoyal (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: HMX 2907301-10 Reissue (1992-9)
Chiu’s playing is remarkable not only for its dazzling pianism but for the independent and penetrating quality of the mind behind it, though there’s nothing arid or ‘intellectual’ about it. Indeed, its sense of spontaneity is often incandescent. This is a man who knows exactly where he’s going – and more to the point, where the music is going. The pianism is both breathtaking and extraordinarily subtle, the rhythms buoyant, driving and caressing by turns, but ultimately it’s the particular blend of characterisation and structure which lifts most of these performances so far out of the ordinary. The playing lacks nothing in the way of motoric excitement but in many ways it’s far more sophisticated and refined than Prokofiev’s own playing. It may lack the white heat of Richter or Argerich at times, and it doesn’t eclipse individual recordings by Kissin, Ashkenazy, Horowitz, Pogorelich and Pletnev, but it’s in that class. Boris Berman’s complete cycle for Chandos is also very distinguished, and rather less febrile, but the inclusion here of some very interesting transcriptions by Chiu himself, plus the violin sonatas with Pierre Amoyal, tips the balance, for me, in Chiu’s direction. Jeremy Siepmann