Primakov Plays Brahms, Chopin, Scriabin
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This new DVD marks the film debut of piano virtuoso, Vassily Primakov, performing the three Intermezzos, Op. 117 by Johannes Brahms, the four Ballades by Fryderyk Chopin, and the Sonata No. 4 by Alexandr Scriabin. Vassily Primakov has been hailed as a pianist of world class significance, the New York Times trumpeting his "fiery intensity" and his "bold, expressive phrasing and dramatic commitment that brought the audience to its feet." In 2009, National Public Radio named Primakov's Chopin Mazurka disc to its "Best CD of the Year" list, and American Record Guide raved: "In every piece his touch is perfect. This is a great Chopin pianist." Gramophone wrote that "Primakov's empathy with Chopin's spirit could hardly be more complete." The program was filmed in Denmark, in 2009 in HD video, David Starobin, director (68 minutes). The region free DVD includes audio in stereo as well as 5.1 surround sound in DTS and Dolby formats. Special features: Vassily Primakov photo gallery; biographical information; Primakov discography; and a Digital .Mp4 file, for easy copying to iPod or personal video devices.
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The writer of the copious sleeve notes makes the suggestion that the free compositional style of Chopin's Ballades can be extended into the Brahms Opus 117 set which are likened to a set of 3 lullabies. They are also linked to Brahms's much earlier set of Ballades Op.10. The Scriabin sonata is a naturally free composition anyway, typical of the thinking of that composer.
As a result the Brahms receives a more rhythmically free interpretation than is often the case with a considerable lassitude in terms of rhythmic pace. This interpretation could never be accused of being in strict tempo for instance. I personally liked it very much while being aware of the deviation from the more normally rigorous approaches to tempo in other performances.
This same approach informs the four Chopin Ballades which are also given a more tonally rounded interpretation than is often the case. There is no hint of the dramatically incisive outbursts that are frequently heard from other pianists. Instead the climatic moments, of which there are a great number, are more in the way of tonal expansions. The touch could almost be described as gentle and this, coupled with the reduced percussive `attacca' impacts produces somewhat more of a darker and thicker textural range than is often the case. This is markedly different from the approaches of Rubinstein, Ashkenazy, Perahia or Kissin to take four random examples from different generations. For my taste, I found this interesting but not my ideal. I think Chopin can be more exciting than this!
On the other hand, the Scriabin seems to suit Primakov perfectly and his gentler, but totally virtuosic, performance makes this often wayward music much more accessible. This interpretation, to my mind, is totally successful and makes a very satisfying conclusion to an interesting recital.
The recording was made, without audience, and in studio conditions. As such it provides a visual and sonic reproduction of studio consistency as opposed to the more varied results sometimes found in `live' recordings. The sound itself is presented in DD 5.1, DTS 5.1 and stereo and is of good quality. There is some biographical information provided as a bonus feature but I found the sleeve notes to be more than adequate in that regard as well as providing interesting comment about the music being performed.
This is an intriguing and enjoyable recital that has something valid to say about all of the music. The approach differs from the norm in the ways described above but should still provide a satisfying experience on its own terms. However, many purchasers may find the Chopin in particular to be a little too undemonstrative for their tastes and may prefer to wait for more choice to become available. Many CD versions such as the four mentioned above are simply exhilarating in ways that this set does not attempt. It therefore seems reasonable to rate this at 4 stars overall.
This video is totally recommended for anyone who enjoys great piano playing and is a great chance to get to know this very talented young pianist, now I will try to get his audio cds also, no doubt.
Besides this dvd I would also like to recommend the dvd with Valentina Igoshina playing Chopin and the dvd with Ingrid Fliter playing Haydn Beethoven and Chopin that are absolutely remarkable, really not to be missed alongside this dvd with Vassily Primakov playing Brahms Chopin and Scriabin.