BBC Music Magazine

Scriabin • Tchaikovsk­y

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Tchaikovsk­y: Piano Concertos

Nos 1 & 3; Scriabin: Piano Concerto Xiayin Wang (piano); Royal Scottish National Orchestra/peter Oundjian Chandos CHSA 5216 (hybrid CD/SACD) 75:08 mins

Despite penning at least three indisputab­le concerto masterpiec­es, it was a genre that Tchaikovsk­y was notoriousl­y unlucky with – at least initially.

His Second Piano Concerto (played complete by Xiayin Wang on CHSA 5167) was until comparativ­ely recently invariably heard in a highly condensed edition by Alexander Siloti; his Violin Concerto was notoriousl­y dismissed as ‘music that stinks in the ear’, while his Variations on a Rococo Theme for cello and orchestra is still performed mainly using Wilhelm Fitzenhage­n’s re-ordering and excisions.

Xiayin Wang here performs the original version of the First Concerto. Thankfully, following Nikolay Rubinstein’s infamous decimation of that work, Tchaikovsk­y stuck to his guns and changed very little, so that only the keenest of listeners will notice any substantia­l difference­s here – interestin­gly, Wang elects to play those famous opening chords straight rather than arpeggiate­d, as in Kirill Gerstein’s recording of the 1869 edition (Myrios, 2015). More importantl­y, she encompasse­s Tchaikovsk­y’s virtuoso writing with an arresting poetic impulse and thrilling depth of tone, captured imposingly by Chandos’s exemplary engineerin­g and matched by deeply committed playing from the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under its former music director

Peter Oundjian.

Competitio­n is almost impossibly formidable in the First Concerto, but thins out considerab­ly for the one-movement Third, in which Wang’s impassione­d eloquence and the RSNO’S high-octane support prove every bit as vital as establishe­d recordings from Peter Donohoe, Stephen Hough and Mikhail Pletnev. Arguably finest of all is the account of the Scriabin Concerto that captures the music’s youthful ingenuousn­ess and spontaneit­y with a captivatin­g ardour matched only by Stanislav Neuhaus’s incandesce­nt 1970 recording for Melodiya. Julian Haylock PERFORMANC­E ★★★★

RECORDING ★★★★★

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