Pianist Lise de la Salle has a big tone and a strong technique, but while she is surely up to the technical requirements of Prokofiev's and Shostakovich's first piano concertos, she seems out of her depth in their interpretive demands. She can pound her way through the muscular rhythms and massive sonorities in the outer movements of Prokofiev's concerto but appears immune to the lyrical poetry in the legato lines of the work's central Andante assai. Similarly, de la Salle can make the fur fly in the racing figuration of Shostakovich's concerto's closing Allegro con brio, but seems unaware of the sensual charms of the same work's central Lento. Her brilliant and bombastic take on Liszt's concerto is more effective, but of the three concertos here, that work makes the greatest demands on a pianist technique and the least demands on their interpretive abilities, and de la Salle's super virtuoso but superficial approach suits the work better.
More disappointing than de la Salle's performances, however, are the accompaniments provided by Lawrence Foster and the Lisbon Gulbenkian Foundation Orchestra. With his crisp downbeats and poised balances, Foster seems able enough to support the soloist, but the Lisbon ensemble seems too small, slack, and scrappy to provide the unstinting orchestral support de la Salle and the music need to succeed. And unfortunately the close, dry digital sound reveals every flaw in the orchestra's performance. Listeners looking for an introduction to this talented pianist are pointed in the direction of her stunning debut disc coupling works by Bach and Liszt.