A New Recording Of Skalkottas’ Intractable Piano Concerto No. 3

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 8

In 2004 BIS released the first recording of Nikos Skalkottas’ Piano Concerto No. 3, scored for 10 instruments and percussion. My colleague David Hurwitz’s Classicstoday.com review accurately described the work as “uncompromising, monstrously long, and monotonous in terms of melody, harmony, and timbre.” In addition, Hurwitz rightfully suspected that the interpretation was strikingly under tempo, citing pianist Geoffrey Douglas Madge’s “playing of relatively undifferentiated sameness, lacking variety of dynamics, articulation, and touch.” Fast forward 15 years to the work’s second recording, featuring pianist Daan Vandewalle and Ensemble Blattwerk, conducted by Johannes Kalitzke.

This recording won’t win Skalkottas’ charmless atonality, rhythmic squareness, and intractable temperament new friends. Yet it makes a better case for the music. For starters, the basic tempos are faster. The third-movement Allegro has much more of a “giocoso” feeling due to sharper accents and characterful articulation. The central Andante sostenuto’s considerably brisker pace imparts welcome mobility and shape to the long, dirge-like lines. Secondly, Vandewalle emerges more of a team player than Madge in terms of chamber-like repartee with his colleagues. To be fair, Madge’s piano is balanced too far forward in BIS’s mix, yet Vandewalle’s rhythmically incisive and crisply supple fingerwork ultimately commands greater interest. While BIS reproduces the woodwinds and percussion with breathtaking presence and clarity, Paladino’s less vivid pickup nevertheless conveys a cogent sense of concert-hall realism.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: This one

  • Daan Vandewalle (piano)
  • Blattwerk, Johannes Kalitzke

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