Prokofiev, Ravel, SchlimŽ

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COMPOSERS: Prokofiev,Ravel,Schlimé
LABELS: PentaTone
ALBUM TITLE: Prokofiev, Ravel, Schlimé
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 5
PERFORMER: Francesco Tristano Schlimé (piano); Russian National Orch/Mikhail Pletnev
CATALOGUE NO: 5186 080
Here together on disc for the first time are concertos by two masters respectful of each other’s achievement, both premiered in 1932 and with much in common: brittle on the surface, with a strong vein of nostalgic feeling breaking the surface and coming up for air in the slow movements. The trouble is that their chief point of connection, quick-change artistry that ought to seem spontaneous, never stands a chance in Francesco Tristano Schlimé’s off-kilter interpretations. Having floated the glittering start of the Ravel Concerto to perfection, he skids to a halt for lyric respite and we’re bogged down in what seems like an eternity without any sense of forward movement (it turns out not to be as long as it feels – Zimerman’s coruscating double-act with Boulez is only a minute shorter in this movement). That also makes it hard to welcome a protracted central Adagio assai, especially when there’s no inner life to the phrasing.

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The powerful theme that forges ahead half way through Prokofiev’s slow movement, on the other hand, is the best thing about this performance, especially when the unison strings of the Russian National Orchestra join the argument. The contribution of Pletnev’s team is always spruce, characterful and well-balanced in relation to the pianist; yet Schlimé sounds etiolated elsewhere in the Concerto alongside Richter’s audacity and bold changing of gears. His three concluding improvisations are no better or worse than many of their kind – perhaps enjoyable live but not really for home listening and with more connection to jazz than any promised links with the concertos. David Nice