Classical Music Home

Welcome to Naxos Records

Email Password  
Not a subscriber yet?  
Keyword Search
 Classical Music Home > Naxos Album Reviews

Album Reviews

See latest reviews of other albums..., July 2009

The second volume in this series features Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in a 2004 rendition, and the one-movement No. 3 in a recording from 2007 (actually, No. 3 does have three movements, but only the first is usually played, since the second and third were revised and scored by pianist Sergey Taneyev after Tchaikovsky’s death). There is plenty of Biret’s virtuosity on display in these concertos, and her fondness for slow tempos that border on the ponderous is present as well—especially at the very start of No. 1. Equally clear here is Biret’s thoughtfulness: these are well-designed performances in which the contrast between the works’ episodic elements and their long lines is nicely highlighted. But both performances lack a couple of things. One is headlong emotion: Biret is so tightly in control, especially in No. 1, that the sheer intensity of the work tends to get lost. It is easy to appreciate Biret’s interpretation intellectually, but no one is going to be swept away by it. Secondly, the recording overemphasizes the piano through microphone placement and mixing that relegate the orchestra too far to the background. Even when the ensemble has the main theme, it is the piano’s subsidiary elements that are always heard most prominently. Emil Tabakov paces the Birkent Symphony Orchestra—of which he was music director at the time of these recordings—quite well, but the CD’s sonic design gives everyone but Biret insufficient weight. The CD gets a (+++) rating for Biret’s fine playing and carefully considered interpretations, but it will be of considerably more interest to fans of Biret than to fans of Tchaikovsky.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, June 2009

Though the CD catalogue is creaking under the weight of Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto recordings, you cannot blame every pianist for wanting to have their performance for posterity, this one coming from the Turkish-born Idil Biret. It is part of the Biret Archive that I comment upon above, this being one of the newly recorded items to augment the historic releases. Like her mentor, Alfred Cortot, Biret is very much her own person, giving a highly personal account of the popular concerto, never afraid of shaping passages in unconventional ways. The opening is slow and imposing, building up a head of steam by the time we reach the main cadenza. The slow movement is spacious, the quick central section mercurial in Biret’s fingers. The final is fast without sounding breathless, and the acceleration to the close is as exciting as they come. I find the CD’s front cover highly misleading to the purchaser, for it would make you think you are buying the Third Concerto in Taneyev’s completion. But Biret gives just the Allegro brillante, the only movement completed by the composer. It is a very enjoyable, the clarity of Biret’s playing a constant joy. But it makes for an exceedingly short disc, the 2007 sound engineering for the Third having much greater orchestral presence than the First.

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group