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Esa-Pekka Salonen: Helix; Piano Concerto; Dichotomie


Yefim Bronfman, piano; Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor; Los Angeles Philharmonic

Deutsche Grammophon 477 8103


During his 17-year tenure as Music Director of the LA Philharmonic, Esa-Pekka Salonen came to epitomise for American audiences a new brand of European modernism, one that was showy, cultured and clever, yet still marketable to a subscriber base. With pieces as brilliant and glamorous as those here, it is not hard to see how.


To take just one, the piano solo Dichotomie is gripping, skillfully designed and easy to swallow. However, it confidently and completely answers every question that is put to it and thus eliminates any reason for going back to it a second time. Among several identifiable influences, I could hear Ligeti – another darling of those same American audiences – but Ligeti shorn of all his dark meditations on the substance of musical materials.


Salonen is gifted and has some very good ideas: the orchestral introduction to the Piano Concerto (here in its world première recording) takes a surprising route towards the soloist’s entry. His musical language is highly detailed – especially in the realm of instrumental colour – and yet, in terms of pacing, form and the relationship between soloist and orchestra, this is still a concerto on the model of dozens of mid-20th century examples.

When Bartók and Prokofiev’s Thirds already exist, one has to ask of the Salonen: why this, too? Your answer to that question will determine how much you get out of this CD.


Tim Rutherford-Johnson