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Prokofiev: The 5 Piano Concertos

Berman, Gutiérrez, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Järvi

Chandos Classics CHAN 10522[2] - 75 +48 mins

These re-issues of 1989/90 Amsterdam recordings prompt some surprise that cycles of these concertos are rarities in the concert hall, leaving many listeners unfamiliar with several of the five.

Musical Pointers is not equipped for comparative reviewing (Gramofile has good things to say about the Toradze/Gergiev set - "often spellbinding - - adequately rather than outstandingly balanced and recorded") and I am happy to recommend this Chandos Classics Amsterdam set.

There is huge originality through from No 1 (a student work which the composer himself played in competition instead of one of the classical favourites, thinking that the Judges would not know how well he played it; a successful strategy, he won...) through to No 5 of 1932, which still sounds very modern and inventive.

No 4 (left-hand) was rejected by an ungrateful Wittgenstein, who disliked Ravel's and Strauss' offerings that he'd paid for too; how arrogant, not to trust major composers. Those three are all played by Boris Berman with easy command of their difficulties and good rapport with Jarvi.

Nos 3, long a general favourite, and the blockbuster No 2 are the best known, and they are given here by Horatio Gutiérrez, whose CV significantly excludes UK.

Currently pianists are tumbling over each other to give and record Beethoven concerto cycles; Prokofiev's certainly warrant a place (or two) in your collection, and this double CD - at £12.69 from Amazon - is a very desirable bargain; no need to hesitate.

Peter Grahame Woolf