Bartók’s be­guil­ing fi­nal pi­ano con­certo

Misha Donat ad­mires the scrupu­lous re­fine­ment of pi­anist Javier Pe­ri­anes

BBC Music Magazine - - Concerto -

Bartók Con­certo for Orches­tra; Pi­ano Con­certo No. 3

Javier Pe­ri­anes (pi­ano); Mu­nich Phil­har­monic/pablo Heras-casado Har­mo­nia Mundi HMM 902262

60:85 mins

These two works, com­posed dur­ing the sad years of Bartók’s self-im­posed ex­ile in Amer­ica, were the last or­ches­tral scores he com­pleted (though even so, the Pi­ano Con­certo No. 3’s last few bars had to be de­ci­phered from the com­poser’s short­hand no­ta­tion by his friend and ex-pupil Ti­bor Serly). They show a dis­tinct mel­low­ing in the com­poser’s style – a de­sire to ad­dress him­self to a wider au­di­ence, per­haps – though with­out any di­lu­tion of his dis­tinc­tive cre­ative per­sona. The Third Pi­ano Con­certo was in­tended as a legacy for Bartók’s pi­anist wife, Ditta Pász­tory, though she could never bring her­self to play it. The Con­certo for Orches­tra was com­mis­sioned by the con­duc­tor Serge Kous­se­vitzky, in an at­tempt to boost the al­ready ter­mi­nally ill com­poser’s morale and fi­nances.

These new record­ings are re­ally splen­did, with sen­si­tive and thought­ful play­ing from the Span­ish pi­anist Javier Pe­ri­anes, and metic­u­lous con­duct­ing from his com­pa­triot Pablo Heras-casado. The Con­certo for Orches­tra’s open­ing Al­le­gro may per­haps be a bit lack­ing in vigour and en­ergy, but Heras-casado’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the work as a whole is com­mend­ably free of show­man­ship or vul­gar­ity, and even the Shostakovich par­ody of the ‘In­ter­mezzo in­ter­rotto’ and the big jazzy trum­pet tune in the fi­nale are done with re­fine­ment. And if the ‘Game of Cou­ples’ sec­ond move­ment is a shade faster and less wryly hu­mor­ous than in some other per­for­mances, Heras-casado’s tempo is fully in keep­ing with the com­poser’s ‘Al­le­gro vi­vace’ mark­ing. The recorded sound in both works is ex­em­plary.

PER­FOR­MANCE ★★★★★ RECORD­ING ★★★★★ lively reper­toire is ap­par­ent as soon as he hits the keys. In Rhap­sody in Blue, played in its jazz band scor­ing, each of his notes springs up with a bounce; rhythms are al­ways hot and crisp. David Robert­son’s St Louis forces are equally elec­tri­fy­ing in these live record­ings, taken mostly from pub­lic con­certs last April (with co­pi­ous amounts of ap­plause in­cluded, on one oc­ca­sion be­tween move­ments).

The Con­certo in F ben­e­fits es­pe­cially from the care taken to high­light its in­ner voices and sen­su­ous or­ches­tral colour­ing. In the spirit of jazz im­pro­vi­sa­tion, Ger­stein takes oc­ca­sional ‘lib­er­ties’, insert­ing a crunchy twid­dle right at the start and slip­ping in an ex­tra minute un­help­fully ex­tend­ing the ada­gio’s quasi-ca­denza.

Among the al­bum’s ex­tras, the laid­back jazz in­ter­pre­ta­tions of Sum­mer­time (vo­cal­ist Storm Large) and Os­car Le­vant’s song Blame It On My Youth (with Gary Bur­ton’s doo­dling vi­bra­phone) may suit some tastes, if not mine. But we can all surely agree that the in­ti­mate, slinky sound of Robert­son and Ger­stein’s Rhap­sody is very re­fresh­ing; that Earl Wild’s out­ra­geous and witty Vir­tu­oso Etudes make ex­cel­lent en­cores; and that King Kong, seen astride the Em­pire State Build­ing on the CD’S cover, looks like he’s hav­ing a won­der­ful time. Ge­off Brown PER­FOR­MANCE ★★★★ RECORD­ING ★★★★

The big jazzy trum­pet tune in the fi­nale is done with re­fine­ment

Sen­si­tive and thought­ful: Javier Pe­ri­anes plays the po­etic Third Con­certo

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