Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky. Concerto
RACHMANINOFF: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, No. 2, in С minor, Op. 18
TCHAIKOVSKY: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, No. 1, in В flat minor, Op. 23
Alexei Sultanov, piano: London Symphony Orchestra, Maxim Shostakovich, cond. Wolfgang Mohr, prod. Teldec С lassics CD: 4G281-2 (DDD). Playing lime: 68:48.
Alexei Sultanov won the Gold Medal at the Eighth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in June 1989. This debut recording was taped at the Mailings Concert Hall in Aldeburgh, England, in November, just months after the Soviet pianist's Dallas triumph at the age of 19.
Sultanov's playing here is pretty close to that heard at his Carnegie Hall recital in May, with a similar compendium of many virtues and a few immaturities (for a review of the live performance, sec "Debuts & Reappearances"). Sultanov's patently virtuosic execution stands him in good stead for both of these popular Romantic war-horse concertos, and his type of Horowitz-influenced sonority (that is, bright .and nervy rather than plush in the Rubinstein tradition) draws sparks, as one might have predicted. Sultanov, for all his impulsive bravura, is not a banger: he uses the sustaining pedal sparingly, and displays an altogether superior penchant for color and phrase shape. Occasionally, he allows momentum to flag just a little, and a few purple passages arc just a mite bland emotionally. In fairness, this is equally true with the more mature conductor, Maxim Shostakovich, who conjures an admirable discipline and tonal transparency from the London Symphony Orchestra. However, he sometimes stifles rhetoric to the detriment of the music, especially in the Rachmaninoff concerto. For example, the brass fanfare heralding the development section in the Rachmaninoff lacks the altogether more generous, sweeping gestures of Leopold Stokowski (widi die composer as soloist, RCA 5997-2) and Willem Mengelberg (with Walter Gicseking, Music & Arts CD 250).
On the whole, though, these are good performances, spaciously and convincingly reproduced. Together they make an impressive showcase for an up-and-coming keyboard firebrand.
Musical America. The Journal of Classical Music. 1990