Vassily Primakov / Justin Brown / Odense Symphony Orchestra

Dvorák: Piano Concerto, Op. 33; Poetic Tone Pictures, Op. 85

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The young pianist Vassily Primakov, Russian-born and American-trained, has a sort of hyper-precise style that he's been applying to High Romantic pieces. This isn't really paradoxical, for there are quite a few works that can benefit from such treatment. Exhibit A is the Dvorák Piano Concerto in G minor, Op. 33, a work much less often played than the concertos of Brahms or other composers of the period. It has been deemed unidiomatic to the piano and has even been simplified by later performers and editors, but Primakov, using Dvorák's original version, "with just a few slight modifications," is just the player to find his way through the snarls. He's not the kind of pianist who brings you to your feet, but he offers a crisp reading of the very Czech final movement, and the pastoral slow movement, with a very striking sudden moment of threat in the middle, has an attractive air of mystery. Denmark's Odense Symphony Orchestra under Justin Brown offers better support than the orchestras of cities of 150,000 from most other countries would provide. The program concludes with five of the dozen perhaps even rarer Poetic Tone-Pictures, Op. 85; Romantic program pieces with a distinctly Eastern European mood and tonal palette. Again one wishes for a bit more oomph in the final At the Hero's Grave, but the delicacy of the music comes through well and stimulates a desire for repeated hearings. Strong engineering from the U.S.-based Bridge label rounds out a release bringing worthwhile music that may be less familiar even for lovers of the Slavic repertory.

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