WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor; Piano Concerto in F sharp minor
PERFORMER: Nikolai Demidenko (piano)BBC SO/Alexander Lazarev
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66680 DDD
It is something of a major achievement when one manages to hear afresh such an over-familiar work as Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto. But this is exactly what happens with Demidenko. He has a rare ability to project poetic resonances in the music that are so often overlooked by other pianists. In doing this, he can occasionally be wilful with some of Tchaikovsky’s precise phrasing and dynamics, and the tempo in the Allegro con spirito section of the first movement may seem a little too expansive. But I’d wager that the composer himself would have approved of a performance that eschews bombast and demonstrates such a creativity of approach. Lazarev and the BBC Symphony Orchestra offer sterling support throughout, and the beautifully balanced recording allows one to hear much fascinating inner detail.
Similar qualities abound in the performance of Scriabin’s youthful and sometimes Chopinesque concerto. It’s a work that doesn’t deserve to languish in comparative obscurity, and Demidenko gives as convincing an account of the solo part as Ashkenazy on a much admired Decca release. Here one can savour the full range of Demidenko’s pianism, from the dreamy reflectiveness of the magical coda of the slow movement to the powerfully triumphant chords that bring the work to an impressive close. Erik Levi