I just wrote about the Quatuor Ebène’s brilliant new Schubert recording, which received an Editor’s Choice in Gramophone. This legendary magazine is obviously among the ultimate references in reviewing classical music.
Therefore, I checked out another Editor’s Choice from Gramophone’s May Edition:
Tchaikovsky & Grieg: Piano Concertos – Denis Kozhukin – Vassily Sinalsky – Rundfunksinfonieorchester Berlin (Pentatone 2016)
Then I started listening. And couldn’t believe my ears. The Tchaikovsky is about as far as my idea of an ideal recording as it could be.
To be fair, I’m not a big fan of Tchaikovsky in the first place (see also here), and I have played his 1st piano concerto too much in my youth, unfortunately on another recording which today I really don’t like, Evgeny Kissin’s famous (or notorious) recording with Herbert von Karajan and the BPO.
To give you an idea how for my ears this concerto should be played, check out this legendary 1943 concerto played by Vladimir Horowitz and Arturo Toscanini:
This version really couldn’t be any more different to this new Pentatone release
So what does Patrick Rucker praise in his review? He mainly compliments Kozhukin’s naturalness. And I get that. The slow movement of the Grieg for example is beautifully played (I still prefer Andnes by quite a bit though). However, he then goes on and writes “you’re left with one thing: the music”. Well I really don’t get it, to me this music without the full power of the emotion of these romantic masterpieces is missing so much, TOO much for me.
My rating: Three stars (I don’t want to give Kozhukhin less than this, as I can clearly hear from this album that he has potential, although if I follow my own rating system systematically, it should have been 2 stars, as I’ll definitely won’t be listening to this album again).
P.S. I already had this recording typed out and ready for publishing when I read the review in the just released May issue of Classica Magazine, my other reading of choice.
And guess what: Two stars! (out of 5), to quote Clément Serrano about the Tchaikovsky “sans prise de risque”, without risk-taking, and similar, although slightly friendlier words about the Grieg. He reminds his readers again about the recent Perianes – Oramo recording of the Grieg, and I couldn’t agree more.
So in a nutshell, never trust a single review of a classical music album, even if it comes from a very reputable source, but always make up your own mind before buying. Luckily, in the days of streaming services, this is easier than ever.