ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven
WORKS: Piano Concertos Nos 2 & 4
PERFORMER: Mikhail Pletnev (piano); Russian National Orchestra/Christian Gansch
CATALOGUE NO: 477 6416
These performances of two of the most familiar of all piano concertos are fascinating and baffling by turns. You may not agree with everything Mikhail Pletnev does, but there’s no mistaking his mastery and audacity. Most bizarre is the famous opening solo of the Fourth Concerto. Not for Pletnev the traditional hushed view of this magical moment: instead, he attacks the initial G major chord with gusto, and launches into an almost dance-like account of the ‘rocking’ motif that follows, before indulging in a huge ritardando in the final phrase. There are other eccentricities: the rhapsodic treatment of the central development section, or the effusive fortissimo (with added left-hand chord) replacing Beethoven’s pianissimo for the excursion into E flat shortly after the start of the recapitulation. But then, who could imagine the delicate passage following the cadenza more beautifully done, or the light-footed finale more transparently played?
Concerto No. 2 again offers spellbinding pianism coupled with the occasional oddity (in particular, a curiously hesitant treatment of the finale’s main rondo theme), but again the performance vividly captures music-making on the wing. Safer recommendations would be Martha Argerich’s superb account of No. 2, or Hélène Grimaud’s unpretentiously poetic No. 4, but Pletnev demands to be heard, too. Misha Donat