WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 1; Piano Concerto No. 2; Piano Concerto No. 3; Piano Concerto No. 4; Piano Concerto No. 5
PERFORMER: Vladimir Krainev (piano); Frankfurt RSO/Dmitri Kitaenko
CATALOGUE NO: 9031-73257-2 DDD
Prokofiev’s five piano concertos quite neatly delineate his stylistic development through the first two decades of his career. Here we see him in precocious, youthful vein (No. 1), at the height of his (to our ears tame) Modernist phase (No. 2) and tending towards the Neo-classicism (No. 3) and ‘social realist’ approachability (No. 5) of his final, ‘Soviet’ period.
Thus the challenge to any pianist is as much in the range of expression required as in technique, and Krainev comes out of the marathon pretty well. His playing may lack the tonal depth of Ashkenazy (on Decca) in this music but what immediately forces itself upon the listener is the wit and liveliness of the playing. Krainev’s technique is indeed formidable, worthy of a former Tchaikovsky Competition winner, and he displays ample warmth and passion among the humour.
It is only a pity that the contribution from the Frankfurt RSO does not quite always equal his playing, though its somewhat blustery quality may have more to do with the rather ample acoustic and the ‘digital’ edge caught by the recording than anything inherent in the execution. (And while dwelling on this otherwise highly rewarding set’s deficiencies, it’s worth noting that some of the uppermost notes of Krainev’s piano are not always in tune.) Matthew Rye