Grieg, Debussy

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Debussy,Grieg
WORKS: Piano Concerto in A minor
PERFORMER: Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (piano); New Philharmonia Orchestra/Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos
So much is made of Thibaudet’s ‘matinée idol’ looks, and his snazzy sense of dress, that many people (too many of them critics) have bought the image and assigned him a place comfortably below the top drawer. This recording, like his recent all-Chopin disc, tells a very different story. Add to the consistent excellence of his playing here the vital, elegant, superbly paced contribution of Gergiev and the Rotterdam Philharmonic, enhanced by the superb recorded sound, and you have a very superior release indeed. The colouristic range of Thibaudet’s playing (embracing everything but stridency), is a pleasure from first note to last, as are his subtle, often illuminating rhythmic suppleness and his impeccable articulation. And Gergiev is no less subtle, and no less brilliant, conjuring up orchestral colours and textural balances which makes a nonsense of the knee-jerk claim that Grieg and Chopin, at this early stage of their careers, were near-klutzes when it came to orchestration. Michelangeli, recorded at a public concert in 1965, is pianistically impeccable as always, and for all his icy demeanour turns in a performance of white-hot intensity and imposing authority. Riveting one’s concentrated attention from the outset, he nevertheless lacks Thibaudet’s warmth, and the same goes for the recorded sound, despite the impressive remastering. But no committed pianophile will want to be without this disc (the Debussy Préludes are if anything even more commanding). As to Griegian benchmarks, the field is already so crowded with great performances that a single choice is nigh impossible, but I’ve heard nothing to top Perahia and Colin Davis on Sony. Jeremy Siepmann