Mikhail Pletnev

Pletnev in Person

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The concept of this album by Russian pianist Mikhail Pletnev is unusual enough that some buyers may wish to pick it up for the novelty alone. It is not a live album, and not even the set of outtakes from recording sessions that it has sometimes been marketed as. Instead, it consists of warmups for recording sessions, done so that Pletnev could familiarize himself with the instrument at hand (one of which was Rachmaninov's own Steinway) and begin to immerse himself in the task at hand. Yet they were more than mere exercises; Pletnev would often tell the recording engineers that they might switch on their machines, and the result is the present album, which comes with a legalistic note from the pianist: "I hereby approve these recording for publication, on the condition that it is stated that these recordings have been authorized by me, but were never official productions" and indeed contain defects. Those defects are hard to hear, however, and you can see why Pletnev wanted the material recorded: it has a very unusual mood, intimate, playful, and above all, relaxed. The highlight of the program is Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 2/2, which Pletnev has never recorded. His reading of the work has a delightful, capricious quality that sets it apart from any other version on the market. There are a few moments, such as the pair of Schubert Impromptus at the end, where Pletnev shows off his liquid facility in fast passagework, but mostly the appeal lies in the almost languid mood, in the way Pletnev lets his hair down in very familiar material and thinks on the fly as he plays it. A must for Pletnev fans, this is an intriguing item for any lover of pianism in the classic style. The high quality of the engineering again suggests that the whole operation was not quite as spontaneous as it makes itself out to be.

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