Mikhail Pletnev

Sergei Taneyev: At the Reading of a Psalm

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It appears as if Mikhail Pletnev, surely one of the most accomplished Russian pianists of the last 20 years, has kept his contract with Deutsche Grammophon as a pianist: his recordings of piano repertoire continue to be released on a regular basis by that label. But it also appears that Pletnev, surely one of the least capable Russian conductors of the last 20 years, has lost his contract with DG as a conductor: two of his recordings of symphonic repertoire with the Russian National Orchestra have been released on PentaTone. This 2003 recording of Taneyev's At the Reading of a Psalm is surely the more ambitious of the two in that Pletnev is directing a work for soloists, chorus, and orchestra of massive dimensions and monumental intentions. Although At the Reading of a Psalm is superbly written work with amazing counterpoint and a dexterous handling of the huge ensemble, it fails to impress here in large part because of Pletnev's conducting. His consistent inability to clarify the lines, to sustain the tempos, or to balance the ensemble would sink any work, but particularly an enormous work of massive dimensions and monumental intentions that would tax the abilities of even the most skilled conductors. For listeners who have to have every work from the last years of the Russian Imperial era, this disc will be mandatory. But they may find themselves wishing the performance lived up to the work. PentaTone's super audio sound is very vivid and very immediate, but not quite real.

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