COMPOSERS: Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky
ALBUM TITLE: Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky
PERFORMER: Denis Matsuev (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 82876 78861 2
Perhaps unfairly, I tend to associate RCA piano recordings with a brittle, percussive sound. One might think that Stravinsky’s Three Movements from Petrushka might be served reasonably well by this, since the piano has to replace a large orchestra going full belt. But in the young Russian Denis Matsuev’s recording we get all too much of what may be a good thing. He gives the impression that it is only the percussion of the orchestra which he is aiming to reproduce. Of his virtuosity there is no question, but he does just bash the keyboard here – there is such a thing as virtuosity of restraint. Some of this music is wistful and even poignant. Pollini’s recording of 1971 still sounds wonderful, and his understanding is in another league.
Matsuev shows that he is capable of a warmer and more relaxed approach in this complete set of Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons (it would more appropriately be called The Months), but these are not very substantial pieces, and listening to the 12 together, played as routinely as this, gives only moderate pleasure. He could make more of the contrasts between successive pieces, while remaining within the limited range they seek to explore. In this repertoire, Michael Pletnev is more penetrating and the piano tone a lot more beautiful. Michael Tanner