Liszt, Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor; Dumka, Op. 59

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COMPOSERS: Liszt,Tchaikovsky
LABELS: BMG Melodiya
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor; Dumka, Op. 59
PERFORMER: Vladimir Ashkenazy, John Ogdon (piano)USSR State SO/Konstantin Ivanov, Victor Dubrovsky
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 33219 2 ADD Reissue (1962)
At the first Tchaikovsky competition in 1958, the wheels fell off for the Russians when the American Van Cliburn won. Four years later there were two winners (not a shared first prize) in Vladimir Ashkenazy and, from the UK, John Ogdon. This disc is not the competition itself, but recordings made shortly afterwards. It is hard to imagine from listening to this full-blooded performance of the Tchaikovsky that Ashkenazy was a reluctant competitor, playing music in which (to the outraged incredulity of the Russian authorities) he did not feel at home because he detested ‘all that bravura’. His playing hurries from phrase to phrase, yet retains Russian elegance and whimsy, and in the solo Dumka, soulful melancholy.

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Ogdon, on the other hand, and belying his bear-like bulk, gets off to a flying start, after a turgid orchestral opening by the USSR orchestra under Dubrovsky in the Liszt concerto. He plays with a straightforward approach, every note telling in a stunning display of virtuosity, particularly in the playful scherzo. To conclude, Ogdon plays the first Mephisto Waltz with ‘all that bravura’ to which he was so suited and which was so tragically cut short in 1989. Christopher Fifield