Boris Berezovsky brings a high-octane virtuosity to this Russian recital, an early demonstration of the keyboard command that has since become his hallmark, as was memorably shown in London last week. He has the biggest tone, the strongest fingers, the most charged musicality ... The programme here is imagined as if out of the blue: a fantastic arrangement os Mussorgsky's Night On A Bare Mountain is both soulful and physically intense, although in the latter stakes nothing can quite compete with his thrilling dispatch of Balakirev's Islamey at the end. This is one of the most brilliant showpieces, a Lisztian fantasy with a percussive toccata element that pounds the keyboard into submission, twice interrupted for a swelling melody. In between come a number of varied items by Rachmaninov (the doleful Etude-Tableau Op 39 No. 7, marked Lento, is a memorable moment), Liadov and Medtner. The Fairy Tales of the latter are an indication of the fantasy that comes so vividly to life everywhere here.
This is one of a spate of recordings Berezovsky made in the mid-90s, presumably as part of a deal that followed his success at the 1990 Tchaikovsky piano competition. It's an unusual choice of music. Many star pianists have opted to record whole discs of Rachmaninov - the Etudes-Tableaux or the Preludes, for example - but here, Berezovsky combines just four of the op. 39 Etudes-Tableaux with pieces by lesser-known Russian contemporaries Liadov and Medtner, along with two show pieces by Mussorgsky and Balakirev, both best known in their orchestral versions. Least successful of these is the piano version of Mussorgsky's 'Night on Bare Mountain', which sounds strangely empty. This is through no fault of Berezovsky's; his formidable technique makes easy work of it, which he also demonstrates in Balakirev's 'Islamey'. Berezovsky's true musical depth and expressive scope is most satisfyingly evident in the Rachmaninov, the beautiful pieces by Liadov and the first few of the Medtner selection. Berezovsky's marvellous sound which is so rich and dynamic but never harsh or aggressive is perfectly suited to these late-Romantic works. Ultimately, therefore, you are left wanting more - more of the Rachmaninov, which Berezovsky plays with breathtaking lyricism, but also more of the Medtner and Liadov, composers who are rarely heard, but whose writing has a quite unique and haunting quality.