ALBUM TITLE: Prokofiev Piano Concertos
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 1; Piano Concerto No. 2; Piano Concerto No. 3; Piano Concerto No. 4; Piano Concerto No. 5
PERFORMER: Oleg Marshev (piano); South Jutland SO/Niklás Willén
CATALOGUE NO: DACOCD 584-585
Fine things were expected of Oleg Marshev after his lively double-bill of the Shostakovich concertos, and although he has swapped nordic collaborators since then, no one disappoints here. Thoughtfulness is the keynote: Marshev takes Prokofiev’s lyric vein very seriously from the moment he slips into Romantic mode at the melancholic heart of the otherwise insouciant First Concerto. There’s a probing, introspective account of the Second’s long first movement, every muscle strained to capture the composer at his most colossal. What follows is less consistent: although the elephantine parade of the oddly-called Intermezzo finds both soloist and orchestra at their most vivid, the preceding toccata is a bit short of flashing personality – and so it proves with similar movements in the less well-known later concertos. I’m not sure, either, that Marshev and Willén project enough of the singing physiognomy that ought to surface in the tantalising slow movement of the Fourth (Left-hand) Concerto. And their very fine Third Concerto lacks the last degree of seeming spontaneity only alongside such daunting competitors as Argerich (on DG), Yefim Bronfman (Sony) and William Kapell’s legendary 1949 performance (now on Naxos).
So there still isn’t an ideal complete set of the concertos on the market (Ashkenazy and Previn make a safe interim recommendation). Neatly-balanced teamwork prevails throughout, though, and there are some excellent orchestral solos, especially bassoons, acrobatic trumpet and acerbic oboe in a scintillating Fifth Concerto. The detailed liner notes are lively and not afraid to be controversial. David Nice