- Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16
- Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 23
U.S.-based Steinway & Sons label has set itself the task of re-creating the richness of the piano repertory during the instrument's golden age in the early 20th century. This is the label's first orchestral recording, and while there's nothing terribly original about the program, which is as popular now as it was then, the performances continue the label's strong showing. At first it's hard to pin down what makes it so effective. Canadian pianist Stewart Goodyear is technically adept but not spectacular, and he doesn't do anything outwardly different from the hundreds or even thousands of performances of the Tchaikovsky "Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 23," and the Grieg "Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16." The Czech National Symphony under Stanislav Bogunia is competent but lacks the finesse of the leading German bands or the tortured soul of the Russians. But absorb the contours of the whole, and wonderful things begin to happen. In repertory where, even now, marketing considerations demand the pairing of marquee names who may not necessarily listen to what the other musicians are doing, Goodyear matches his flow to that of the orchestra in rather deep ways. This is especially true in the opening movement of the Tchaikovsky, which somehow fails if it's made to be just about the pianist pounding out the chords: the dialogue that takes place between Goodyear and the orchestra is worthy of top-rank theater. The slow movements are deeply lyrical and immersive, and when sheer power is called for, Goodyear does not disappoint. He's aided by superb engineering, with the label's staff working in a Czech studio far from its home ground. Of the many choices the listener has in this repertory, Goodyear's performance is well into the top tier.