Elisso Bolkvadze

Saint-Saëns: Piano Concerto No. 2; Liszt; Rachmaninov

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The three works on this 2010 Cascavelle release were recorded by Elisso Bolkvadze in the mid-'90s, and a couple have appeared in different combinations on other labels. Made with her hometown orchestra, the Tbilisi Symphony, the recording quality isn't the greatest, but there is nothing wrong with her performance. In fact, it's puzzling why she isn't more widely known, even though she makes several appearances a year throughout Europe. In these three challenging works, her virtuosity and musicality are evident, right from the opening of the Saint-Saëns. The energy she brings to the music is captivating, and once in a while, such as in its entrance in the Piano Concerto and near the end of Liszt's Hungarian Fantasy where the piano and ensemble trade off, the orchestra is a touch slower, not quite able to match her tempo and momentum. Her passagework is agile, especially rippling in the Liszt. She also manages to get the right amount of resonance out of her instrument to hint at the sound of a cimbalom. In the Rachmaninov, Bolkvadze is just as animated as in the Saint-Saëns when the music calls for it, but she maintains a fine sense of musical expression throughout all the variations and doesn't use the work as a showcase for her technical abilities or as a dramatic stage. Unfortunately, any playfulness and crispness are somewhat dulled by the stifled sound of these recordings. Clearer sound might also have given a better impression of the orchestra musicians' and conductor Jansug Kakhidze's skills. Regardless, Bolkvadze's performances rise above the weaknesses of the recordings.

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