Deutsche Gramophone has paired two of today's top performers for aruguably the most difficult piano concertos commonly performed. Both Pletnev - the pianist, and Rostropovich - the cellist, alternate constantly as conductors so it is only fitting that they bring a distinct symphonic approach to these works. The results are mixed yet always exhilarating
Rachmaninov wrote his 3rd piano concerto as a virtuoso piece with which he hoped to conquer mostly American audiences - off course, as with any work of his this is not a mere showpiece for the pianist but is also brilliantly orchestrated and beautifuly annotated. But, there is no doubt that the music works around the piano soloist. So - Pletnev and Rostropovich give more than usual consideration to the orchestra and at parts the piano merely becomes another instrument rather than the soloist - added to Pletnev's light tone, this is a performance where honors and demeanors are shared by soloist, conductor, and orchestra. Many passages come off beautifuly while in others you just cant help yourself from wishing a more extrovert piano performance. Played in this manner, the rachmaninov 3rd piano concerto is transformed into a symphony with a piano part. At times this is fascinating, and then also frustrating. This is not an average performance.
This approach works much better in the Prokofiev. Here for once, both the orchestra and the piano part seem to lose their traditional motoric and percussive nature and instead we are presented with an emotionaly charged yet subtle performance where the understanding between the performers is always apparent. Also - result of this approach is that for once, Prokofiev's 3rd piano concerto is portrayed as full of drama, anguish, and finaly - triumph. The symphonic approach here allows for this concerto for once to not become episodic - rather, all the parts and variations seem to be integrated and eveolve logicaly. Pletnev's tone and technique is in top form throughout the whole disc, but in the prokofiev it becomes simply amazing. It is not a matter of just speed and power, rather than submission to a musical idea that seems to work perfectly.
Overall, this is a disc no serious collector should do without - its a doccument of 2 very serious musicians at the top of their form presenting music in a manner which is both fresh and respectfull of the music. This approach may not always please those who have preconceived notions of how these works should be played, but there is no denying that it is presented in an honest, professional, and inspired manner.