Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor; The Nutcracker Suite (transcr. Economou)

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COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor; The Nutcracker Suite (transcr. Economou)
PERFORMER: Martha Argerich, Nicolas Economou (piano); Berlin PO/Claudio Abbado
CATALOGUE NO: 449 816-2
Back in 1967 Argerich, Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic joined forces for a famous recording of Prokofiev Three and the Ravel G major (DG). Together again in concert in December 1994, their Tchaikovsky belongs high in the same white-hot super league of one-off experience. Argerich’s previous ‘live’ version (with Kondrashin in 1980, on Philips) had amazing moments to be sure, but this new one seems to hang together better and has altogether more electricity. It feels right in the way the others didnquite.

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With Abbado she has always enjoyed a very special chemistry and productive tension. He purposefully builds structures symphonic and theatrical, she charismatically gilds them with pianism of body and decoration. Their inner fire and outward dazzle makes for an extraordinary First Concerto, remarkably little touched by blemish. Its form and poetry, drama and fantasy are memorable. And the double-octave playing is thrilling beyond belief: you won’t hear a more astonishing or molten climax than the first movement build-up at 9:07 minutes. The fill-up (recorded in 1983) is an ingenious two-piano transcription of the Nutcracker that suggests everything. The playing is gorgeous, the piano sound/touch dancing all the way from pizzicato to celesta illusion. Ates Orga