Khachaturian/Tchaikovsky

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COMPOSERS: Khachaturian/Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Warner
ALBUM TITLE: Khachaturian/Tchaikovsky
WORKS: Piano Concerto
PERFORMER: Boris Berezovsky (piano); Ural PO/Dmitri Liss
CATALOGUE NO: 2564 63074-2
‘Only two or three pages are worth preserving; the rest must be thrown away or completely rewritten.’ The bewildering response of Nikolay Rubinstein upon playing through Tchaikovsky’s First Concerto for the first time is legendary. Incensed and deeply hurt, Tchaikovsky refused to change one note – the intended dedication to Rubinstein was immediately withdrawn and went instead to Hans von Bülow.

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Boris Berezovsky has recorded the Concerto once before (live at the prize-winner’s concert following the 1990 Tchaikovsky Competition), but that was let down by Dmitri Kitaenko’s decidedly underwhelming accompaniment. This time around it is Berezovsky who sounds less than fully engaged at times, almost as though he is deliberately playing against the barnstorming stereotype. He performs with all his customary virtuoso assurance, but set beside the volcanically eruptive Argerich (who also benefits from a more forwardly placed piano), this simply fails to set the pulse racing.

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Khachaturian was one of several composers (along with Prokofiev and Shostakovich) who were severely censured in 1948 by the Central Committee of the Communist Party for modernist tendencies – or what the authorities called ‘formalism’. Yet nowadays he tends to be derided as one of the ‘good boys’ of Soviet music. Berezovsky turns up the interpretative temperature a couple of notches here, despatching the Armenian’s often wrist-crippling demands with jaw-dropping aplomb (go to Warner’s website and you can also download the original flexatone version of the slow movement). Yet it is Dora Serviarian-Kuhn’s galvanising pianism (ASV) that by comparison positively wreaks emotional authenticity. Julian Haylock.