I'm a fan of Pletnev's pianism and lament how few recordings he makes as a recitalist. His take on every composer is original; no performance ever fits a generic category, certainly not "typical Russian piano school." This collection is an odd duck, however. As the Amazon blurb states, it consists of performances given on the wing in between official sessions. Although the blurb claims that Pletnev was therefore playing for his own pleasure, he was aware, after all, that the microphone was present. In any event the recorded sound is quite fine, and the readings are of finished quality - there's not a sense of improvisation or off-the-cuff interpretations.
The program, as follows, adheres for the most part to the pianist's range of previously recorded composers from Bach-Busoni to Tchaikovsky:
Piano Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 2 No. 2
Transcription of Bach's Partita BWV 1004: Chaconne
A maiden's love (words S. Witwicki), Op. 74, No. 5
Impromptu in C minor, D899 No. 1
Impromptu in G flat major, D899 No. 3
Nocturne for cello & small orchestra (or cello & piano), Op. 19 No. 4
The Seasons, Op. 37b: November (Troika)
Pletnev can be a fascinating maverick as a Beethoven player, but in the Sonata no. 2 he stays close to Haydn in a reading that is poised and light; even the occasional outburst, which Richter would have used as an occasion for temperament, is restrained. The playing isn't dull or rote, however. We get a chance to relish Pletnev's lovely touch and instinctual phrasing. As a stylistic balancing act, it's quite impressive. busoni's arrangement of the great Chaconne in D minor for solo violin doesn't strike me as a very good idea, because the double and triple stops that require great skill on a stringed instrument turn into very basic harmonies on a keyboard, all but effortless to play. Still, there is Bach's genius to consider, and the change of timbre is interesting, turning music of intensity and struggle into something gentler and more melancholy. As Busoni adds more filigree, the piece becomes more pianistic and virtuosic, a high Romantic commentary on Bach more than anything else. Pletnev's reading is confident and engrossing, as you'd expect.
the transcribed Chopin song and two Tchaikovsky pieces are lyrical and atmospheric, more like salon music to my ears that music of sustained interest, but then, russians place a much higher value on Tchaikovsky's piano music than outside Russia, where The Seasons is all but unplayed. Outside the two Impromptus on this disk, Pletnev doesn't seem to have recorded any Schubert; the recorded sound is more distant than for the other pieces and the piano a bit thin and clattery. He jack rabbits through the second Impromptu of D. 899 with an eccentrically phrased central section; the total effect sounds like a fish out of water. the third Impromptu, in G flat, contains one of Schubert's most tender melodies, and Pletnev's way of pulling it apart a la Chopin also misses the right style.
If you discount the Schubert, or even if you don't, this isn't a very long program, and I'm not sure I'd buy it just for the Beethoven sonata, a new but minor addition to Pletnev's discography. Still, if timings don't matter to you, his artistry is impressive throughout.