Nebolsin’s Tchaikovsky: “Allegro brillante” Indeed

Review by: David Hurwitz

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Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

These performances are as lively and attractive as any on disc. The Second Piano Concerto, played in its original version, is bigger than the first, and some would say duller. Not here. Michael Stern launches the opening movement (Allegro brilliante) with impulsive energy, and Nebolsin, a really fine pianist in romantic repertoire, attacks the music’s episodic form in the best possible way: by making you look forward to the episodes. The big central cadenza comes off particularly well; it sounds as though Nebolsin is improvising as he goes along, but always with a freshness and suppleness that makes you look forward to what’s coming next.

In the slow movement, the solo cello and violin of the New Zealand Symphony distinguish themselves, making genuine chamber music out of their nicely tuned interaction with the solo piano. The finale is fabulous; it gives that of the First Piano Concert a run for its money, in my opinion, with Nebolsin milking the virtuoso bits for all they’re worth. There isn’t another version of this piece on disc that cheats the clock as successfully as this one, and believe me, I’ve heard them all at one time or another.

The neglect of the Concert Fantasia has always mystified me. Concerto-length (about half an hour) and full of good tunes, as well as colorfully scored, it’s delightful, and so is this performance. Perhaps the fact that it’s not called a concerto counts against it, just as it does just with every other work for piano and orchestra that isn’t a concerto and isn’t Rachmaninov’s Paganini Rhapsody. Once again we find an interpretation that knows just when to push forward, and when to relax. The transition to the Molto vivace half of the second (and final) movement is handed perfectly, and Nebolsin’s sizzling fingerwork makes the music sparkle. Warm, well-balanced sonics complete this wholly attractive picture.



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: None


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