Tchaikovsky: Piano Concertos Nos 1-3; Concert Fantasia; Allegro

COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Danacord
ALBUM TITLE: Tchaikovsky
WORKS: Piano Concertos Nos 1-3; Concert Fantasia; Allegro
PERFORMER: Oleg Marshev (piano); Aalborg SO/Owain Arwel Hughes
On disc Oleg Marshev has been frustratingly inconsistent. His accounts of Shostakovich’s concertos and Prokofiev’s sonatas are among the finest available; yet his Liszt and Rachmaninov concertos have left his fans seriously underwhelmed. Sadly, to my ears this Tchaikovsky set joins the latter as a missed opportunity.


Tchaikovsky’s heroic style, familiar from the First Concerto, also pervades the Second, an epic and neglected work, and the attractive if episodic Concert Fantasia. Marshev’s no-nonsense muscularity brings a sense of physical involvement, but there is little sense of light and shade in his playing. Despite some impressive virtuosity the combination of cautious tempos, a restricted dynamic and expressive range, and an uninspiring orchestral contribution makes these performances flat and turgid.

In the huge cadenza in the Second Concerto’s first movement, for example, Marshev resists such straightforward instructions as pianissimo, dolc and molto espressivo; his shapeless mezzo-forte completely negates the excitement of the forthcoming pianistic fireworks. Sadly this problem is general rather than isolated. With Argerich (in No. 1) and Gilels (No. 2) the music leaps off the page – thunderous, viscerally exciting, but also full of character and contrast. Pletnev, too, in all three concertos and the Concert Fantasia, combines colossal technique with imaginative flair, and at bargain price.


Danacord includes the Andante and Finale (rejected movements, orchestrated by Taneyev, of the Third Concerto) and the Allegro in C minor (a rather clumsy student exercise), as well as expert notes from David Fanning. The recording gives a commanding presence to the piano although it lacks natural bloom. Nevertheless, this set is struggling to compete. Tim Parry