"It is all too often forgotten that he actually composed three concertos," state the CD liner notes, and after listening to all three, one can see why the 1st concerto is by far the best known of Tchaikovsky's works for piano and orchestra, and the only one in the standard repertoire. In terms of grandeur, passion and soaring melodies, nothing else in the piano portfolio of the lightweight of Russian Romantics comes close.
Virgin's latest recording of this timeless classic captures the qualities that made it famous. When playing a work of this magnitude, the temptation is often to make it too heavy or overdo its virtuosity. Pianist Mikhail Pletnov resists both temptations with saintly forebearance. Both Pletnev and Conductor Fedeseyev stay true to the spirit of the piece, giving the first movement an air of excitement rather than relentlessness.During his first solo passage, Pletnev's interpretation seems dry and academic, but it gives room for the entire piece to breath and grow, creating some intensely climatic moments. The second movement's warmth and humor is accentuated by the orchestra's gentle crescendos and Pletnev's conscientiously phrased "afterthoughts," and the third movement is tastefully effusive.
Tchaikovsky's super-fans will enjoy this CD's other offerings, which are very fluffy and very Russian. The concert fantasy sounds a bit like the score to a sentimental 1950s MGM film while retaining some of the charm of Tchaikovsky's ballets. The other two concertos have their moments, and Pletnev displays a gift for making passage-work sound like music.