, March 2011
If you are looking for the Tchaikovsky piano concertos in the grandest of grand manners then look no further than this 2 CD set in its single width case.
From the roar of the brass in the First Concerto to the opulent pizzicato and the super-sized sound of the piano everything is in place to set the pulse racing. The vehement fist-shaking impact of the horns at the start of the First Piano Concerto sets the tone which is untiringly maintained. The single movement Third Concerto storms along with the best. At 4.03 listen to that machine-gun rapping attack and the Lisztian maelstrom at 9:38. It reflects wonderfully vital and communicative playing. The blazingly regal rhetoric and poetic introspection of the Second Piano Concerto has, over the last few decades, become known in the work’s grown-up uncut version. Before that it was heard in the abbreviated Siloti edition. Postnikova here favours the full score which sprawls lavishly and magnificently across approaching fifty minutes. The finale has all the lean and glitter of the Litolff scherzo yet with a more sovereign bearing.
Vienna’s second orchestra play their hearts out. This is vivid music-making rather than production-line routine. The beaming geniality of Rozhdestvensky does not undermine the dramatic power of Tchaikovsky’s writing. Certainly this is not rent-a-performance from Postnikova (Rozhdestvensky’s wife since 1969). It’s florid and idiosyncratic. Postnikova was born in Moscow and studied with Yakov Flier. She is no stranger to Tchaikovsky—how could she be. Apart from this cycle—and in the same decade—she also recorded the complete solo piano works on seven discs for Erato on ED 2292-45969-2 and 2292-45512-2.
The recordings throughout are bold as brass, red-blooded, wide-stage (try the first movement of the Second Concerto from 20:00-22:30) and almost luridly exciting in the grandest Decca FFRR tradition. This is big-boned idiomatic Tchaikovsky bursting with character just as we would expect from her Scriabin Piano Concerto on Chandos also with Rozhdestvensky. These works sounds utterly wonderful in twilight era analogue with a toweringly present piano sound. The fine notes are Tchaikovsky authority, John Warrack.