Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1; Suite No. 4

Constantine Orbelian / Neeme Järvi / Philharmonia Orchestra

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Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1; Suite No. 4 Review

by Blair Sanderson

Overshadowed by more glamorous or over-the-top recordings of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, Constantine Orbelian's refined 1989 performance with Neeme Järvi and the Philharmonia may at last find recognition through its 2004 budget reissue from Chandos. With polished technique and elegant delivery, Orbelian and Järvi temper the concerto's bombast and emphasize instead its more graceful, lyrical aspects. To say that this performance is understated may be misleading, for Orbelian plays with vitality and strength, and the orchestra provides sufficient muscle and color in support. Yet this rendition is controlled and balanced, and pianist and conductor scrupulously avoid flashiness and excesses of rubato which, in comparison with more sensational recordings, may make this performance seem modest and constrained. Even so, the musicians' taste and composure in the first work prepare the listener rather well for the classical delights of Tchaikovsky's affectionate tribute to Mozart, the Suite No. 4 in G major, "Mozartiana." Here, Järvi and the Philharmonia are charming and sweetly expressive, and draw out equal measures of both composers in a masterful performance. Chandos offers good sound quality, though the microphone placement seems a little distant in the Piano Concerto.

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