PROKOFIEV: Piano Concertos Nos. 2 & 5 – Vadym Kholodenko p./ Fort Worth Sym./ Miguel Harth-Bedoya – Harmonia mundi multichannel SACD HMU-807631, 57:03 (2/5/16) **** (performance) **1/2 (recording):

A dynamic performance of two Prokofiev concertos with disappointing recorded sound.

Winner of the gold medal in the 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, Vadym Kholodenko has impressed audiences around the world and particularly in Texas where he serves as Artist in Partnership with the Fort Worth Symphony.  This SACD presents Kholodenko with Miguel Harth-Bedoya and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra in a pair of piano concertos by Sergey Prokofiev that clearly showcase Kholodenko’s skills.  This SACD is the first in a projected Prokofiev cycle. The disc contains the Second Piano Concerto (1913) and Prokofiev’s Fifth Piano Concerto written almost 20 years later. The Second is well known, the Fifth less so.

The performances are precise and dynamic. I’ve only heard a few performances of the Fort Worth Symphony, but they perform ably here. These are both challenging compositions, but they did not defeat the orchestra or the soloist.

The recording is not a bad one, but not a standout either. Admittedly, how something is recorded is a matter of taste, but I found the orchestra and piano image somewhat muddled and a bit too distant-sounding. The surrounds are subdued, which is as it should be unless the music requires active surrounds, but the overall sound is not as exciting as it could be. High frequencies seem a bit rolled off, and the midrange seems out of proportion (too forward) to the overall balance. It’s not a terrible recording by any means, just not a showpiece. I listened to both SACD and CD layers, and heard little difference.

As this is the first disc in the cycle, I’m hoping for a more likable sound in future releases, but I have to add that the sound may have been intentional by the engineer and producer.

Kholodeno is an impressive pianist. He has attracted attention in concerts all over the world, and I expect we will hear much more of him and about him in the future.

—Mel Martin