Ingolf Wunder / Vladimir Ashkenazy

Tchaikovsky & Chopin

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Central European music may be in need of a miracle, and if a claimant named Wunder comes along, so much the better: Deutsche Grammophon has paired Austrian Ingolf Wunder with the grand old man of Russian music, Vladimir Ashkenazy, at the baton and is heavily promoting him. Ashkenazy gets really silken sounds out of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, and where pure precision is called for, as in the high-note passages of the slow movement of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 23, the results are excellent. There is no question that Wunder is a good, maybe great technician, and in the Tchaikovsky first movement getting the notes securely under one's fingers is a noteworthy accomplishment. This said, the finale of the Tchaikovsky and the two outer movements of the Chopin are likely to satisfy only those with a by-the-notes orientation. The Chopin especially doesn't breathe, and the finale lacks the dance lightness essential to the music of this composer. Deutsche Grammophon's live recording at St. Petersburg's White Nights arts festival is exceptional and again, the sheer virtuosity sustains a level of tension that the interpretation does only intermittently.

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