- Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16
- Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 23
The pianist may be Russian, the orchestra German, and the label Dutch, but this audiophile recording of two of the most-played piano concertos of the 19th century tends rather to incline toward England, the place that bestowed honors on the young Denis Kozhukhin and launched his flourishing career. One hesitates to apply national stereotypes, yet a stiff upper lip is characteristic of Kozhukhin's approach here. Technically, the playing is unimpeachable all around, both from Kozhukhin and from the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra under Vassily Sinaisky, who attain a lush string sound usually associated with the Berlin Philharmonic in its classic days. The technical accomplishments, in fact, tend to crowd out the drama and tumult that have traditionally been part of playing the Tchaikovsky "Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 23," and the poetic spirit of the Grieg "Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16." Sample perhaps the last movement of the Grieg (track 6) to find out whether you'll be dazzled or somewhat bored. Whatever the case, audiophiles will find this a worthwhile acquisition. The detail of Kozhukhin's playing is captured with almost uncanny crispness in Pentatone's studio sound, which even on ordinary reproduction equipment creates an almost physical sense of space that is filled up by degrees. It's a wonderful use of the medium, but it's one that diverges from the Romantic expressive tradition. Whether that's good or bad will depend on individual listeners.