RAVEL: Piano Concerto in G; PROKOFIEV: Piano Concerto No. 5 in G; SCHLIME: 3 Improvisations – Francesco Tristano Schlimé, piano/ Russian National Orchestra/ Mikhail Pletnev – PentaTone Classic

by | Jun 14, 2006 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

RAVEL: Piano Concerto in G; PROKOFIEV: Piano Concerto No. 5 in G; SCHLIME: 3 Improvisations – Francesco Tristano Schlimé, piano/ Russian National Orchestra/ Mikhail Pletnev – PentaTone Classics Multichannel SACD  PTC 5186 080, 1:05:16 ****:

This interesting coupling is the result of more than the two piano concertos just being in the same key. Both were composed in 1932 and both were the last piano concerto from both composers. Another connection is that the previous piano concerto penned by both composers was written especially for the one-armed pianist Wittgenstein – never mind that he never played Prokofiev’s Fourth, saying he “didn’t understand a note of it.”  Yet another similarity of the two works is that their composers each had different ideas for the titles of their concertos: Ravel wanted Divertissement and Prokofiev leaned toward Music for Piano and Orchestra. Ravel’s G Major concerto was written in Paris and Prokofiev’s in Berlin.

Concert artist Schlimé hails from Luxembourg, graduated from Juilliard, and currently lives in Barcelona. He has recorded all of Bach’s keyboard concertos as well as the complete piano works of Luciano Berio.  His wide-ranging musical culture combines classical, jazz, contemporary music, improvisation and composition.

I find Alicia de Larrocha’s 1993 recording of both Ravel concertos for RCA with Leonard Slatkin conducting my favorite performances, but the fidelity, clarity and impact of Schlimé’s SACD version makes the standard CD sound dull and opaque in comparison. Not to mention the added spatial impression of actually being in the Grand Hall of Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Conservatory, where the recording was made. He also puts a knowing twist on the jazzier passages of the Ravel. The Prokofiev Fifth Concerto is unusual in having five movements. The piano is never heard strictly solo, always being a part of the orchestral fabric. Although there are passages of impassioned rhythm, the Schlimé doesn’t emphasize the harsh percussive attack heard in much Prokofiev piano music.

The three improvisations are Schlimé’s re-workings of themes and ideas taken from the Ravel and Prokofiev concertos. Therefore there couldn’t be a better reason for including them to close out the disc, but I still found them rather forgettable. 

– John Sunier

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