Rachmaninov, Scriabin

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COMPOSERS: Rachmaninov,Scriabin
LABELS: Collins
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor. Piano Concerto in F sharp minor
PERFORMER: Artur Pizarro (piano)NDR PO, Hannover/Martyn Brabbins
CATALOGUE NO: 15052
Even Rachmaninov, with his prodigious technique, huge span and the decided advantage of having written the piece, is supposed to have found his Third Piano Concerto too gargantuan and difficult an undertaking at times. What, then, would he have made of Artur Pizarro, who negotiates its emotional heights and depths, skips around its frenzied twists and turns with such grace and naturalness? Pizarro makes everything sound easy, and there lies the problem: seemingly able to play anything and render any effect, he is liable to turn in a performance which is correct but uncharacterful. His Rachmaninov is pure Rachmaninov, and no Pizarro. Horowitz in 1951 had the confidence, arrogance perhaps, to impose himself on the work. His rubatos are more extreme, his variety of tone greater, everything about his approach more daring. He courts disaster, though was too clever to have to confront it. Horowitz’s is a dangerous performance, where Pizarro’s is merely admirable.

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Perhaps part of the difficulty is the overwhelming familiarity of Rachmaninov’s Third, which makes a listener crave something, anything, new. Scriabin’s less frequently performed Concerto is given the perfection treatment and is much more satisfying – it is not, after all, played so often that one can quibble with a perfect performance. Despite the surface simplicity, there is a vein of melancholy in Scriabin’s piece even deeper than Rachmaninov’s, which Pizarro touches. He is a brilliant player, and will undoubtedly one day go beyond good taste and perfect manners to force us to re-examine the familiar. Christopher Wood