Shchedrin: Piano Concerto No. 5

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COMPOSERS: Shchedrin
LABELS: Sony
ALBUM TITLE: Shchedrin
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 5
PERFORMER: Denis Matsuev (piano); Bavarian RSO/Mariss Jansons

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CATALOGUE NO: 82876 703262001
Dedicated to the Finnish pianist Olli Mustonen, who premiered it in 1999, Rodion Shchedrin’s Fifth Piano Concerto is an accessible and expertly written work. Shades of Prokofiev haunt the brilliant outer movements whilst Shostakovich is evoked in the intense string polyphony of the central Andante. Yet those who have heard Shchedrin’s earlier piano concertos will certainly recognise his authorship in various turns of phrase and in the vivacious relationship that is set up between piano and orchestra. Nowhere is this dialogue more confrontational and exciting than in the perpetuum mobile finale which unleashes a veritably orgiastic flurry of activity from both protagonists.

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It’s little wonder then that the Munich audience responds so enthusiastically to this performance which introduces us to yet another Russian lion of the keyboard. Without doubt Denis Matsuev delivers the piano part with astonishing bravura, and Jansons ensures that the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra is kept on its toes to guarantee impeccable ensemble throughout. Although the disc as a whole offers rather short measure, the Stravinsky Firebird Suite that precedes the Shchedrin is no mere aperitif. Luxuriously recorded in the Munich’s Philharmonie am Gasteig, it not only demonstrates Jansons’s orchestra responding so incisively and imaginatively to his direction, but also highlights interesting textural details that are not always captured on other recordings. Erik Levi