Considering the vast quantity of recordings that exist of Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, the overwhelmed listener may wonder how this Capriccio release shapes up before deciding on it. It's an encouraging sign to see Christoph Eschenbach as the conductor, and his handling of the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin is all it should be: well-paced, sympathetic to the music and the soloists, and clear-headed. Yet the reputation of pianist Tzimon Barto doesn't precede him like Eschenbach's does, so listeners deserve to know that, while his playing is technically proficient and at time brilliant, his interpretive skills are open for discussion. No doubt Barto struggled to find ways to make this warhorse interesting, and it is certainly the case that he always keeps the listener guessing his moves. Unfortunately, he tends to favor exaggerated longueur and dramatic pauses, and the concerto becomes excessively drawn-out and tedious because of his vaguely melancholic reading. While this performance of the concerto may bring its share of controversy, the performance of Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme for cello and orchestra is much more engaging and energetic, thanks mostly to Dimitri Maslennikov's elegant cello solos, but also to Eschenbach's skillful direction. This extraordinary performance steals the show from Barto, and what was intended to be a filler piece is instead the most desirable offering of the two. The sound of the concerto recording is decent, but the recording of the Rococo Variations is quite clear and balanced, with credible presence for Maslennikov's part.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, for piano and orchestra, Op. 23|
|Variations on a rococo theme, for cello and orchestra, Op. 33|