Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor; Piano Concerto No. 3 in C

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COMPOSERS: Prokofiev
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor; Piano Concerto No. 3 in C
PERFORMER: Nikolai Demidenko (piano); London Philharmonic/Alexander Lazarev
Any pianist who can wade through the gigantic cadenza in Prokofiev’s Second Concerto should really be beyond criticism. Even if Demidenko has been assisted by a sympathetic tape editor (which I doubt, given Hyperion’s aversion to cut-and-paste mastering), there is a real challenge in keeping a sense of fluidity amid this cascade of notes. A real thrill, too, for the listener who can sense player and instrument being pushed to the limits of their capabilities. It makes the demonic Scherzo seem like a harmless exercise in rapid-fire note bashing. By contrast, the dreamy nostalgia of the concerto’s opening theme requires infinitely subtle shading, both from the exposed melody and the hazy colours of the accompaniment. Lazarev and Demidenko cope admirably with these extreme mood swings, even if the recording balance is inclined to give the piano excess weight and leave the orchestra to its own devices. The Third Concerto is given a sparky and joyful treatment that reflects its greater popularity. Christopher Lambton