Prokofiev's 3rd Piano Concerto has long been one of my favourites, but I have never heard a better version than Ashkenazy's Prokofiev: The Piano Concertos 1-5
. However this is certainly a good contender now for the best version - with better sound and spectacular playing from Lang Lang and the Berlin Phil.
The recording is superb and the accompanying "making of" DVD gives some insight into what went into this - with Rattle and the pianist going through the score carefully with the sound engineers. The piano playing is incredibly vibrant and when you see it on the DVD, it is breathtaking. Rattle points out passages where he thought Lang Lang must have had extra fingers - but he shows how he did it by 'miming' his technique, over the score.
The presentation is very good with a comprehensive, thick booklet that includes many colour photos from the recording sessions. Unlike most liner notes - the content comes primarily from the main protagonists and it is interesting to hear their insight and it all adds to the experience. For example, Lang Lang explains how he hears oriental sounds in the concerto and Rattle points out how different these two pieces are, despite being written within 2 years of each other in central Europe.
Both pieces come across very well in this recording and piano/orchestra never sound less than virtuosic and brilliant. The pieces show two completely different approaches to the piano concerto and Rattle explains how he leads in the Bartok, where the orchestral part is more complex and involved. But in the Prokofiev he allows Land Lang to lead and they let the orchestra follow and support him. All in all, music making of the highest order, recorded in the highest quality - this has to be 5 stars.