Beethoven: Piano Concertos No. 2 and No. 4
BBC Music Magazine
You may not agree with everything Mikhail Pletnev does, but there's no mistaking his mastery and audacity.... who could imagine the delicate passage following the cadenza [of the Fourth Concerto] more beautifully done, or the light-footed finale more transparently played? Concerto No. 2 again offers spellbinding pianism... the performance vividly captures music-making on the wing.... Pletnev demands to be heard.
[The performances] have a kind of pioneering, ‘on the edge’ feel to them... the atmosphere of the beginning of something new, rather than the culmination of long hours of hard work. The orchestra I do have to say sounds marvellous in these recordings, with warm bass and strings, nicely rounded wind sounds, and [a]kind of synergy with their founder.... Pletnev gives us plenty to smile about with truly bravura playing, effortlessly negotiating some spectacular twists and turns... each segment and every note has significance and value, in many cases beyond that which I’ve heard them given on other recordings... I shall certainly be looking out for the other discs in this set, and my Beethoven collection will be unquiet until I have them.
[These recordings] display both Pletnev's astonishing technique and incredible musical imagination at every turn.... Pletnev often plays with a Haydnesque lightness and humour that allows us to hear all the detail elsewhere. It's still a performance that's full of surprises as are his versions of the other concertos: Pletnev is light and skittish when one might expect him to be strong and robust... or heavy-handed when one would expect delicacy.... So although Pletnev infuriates in places, he is never dull. Under Christian Gansch the Russian National Orchestra play like a chamber orchestra, with delicacy and lyricism and their mellow wind section is balanced noticeably more sympathetically.... Pletnev seems to be in a category of his own and, love it or loathe it, I feel anyone interested in these works should hear him.
It is quite an experience witnessing so much testosterone-fuelled wit and irascibility being gathered up into a finished artwork that defiantly refuses to lie down.... there is real magic at the end of the [Second Concerto's] slow movement (as there is at the end of the slow movement of the Fourth Concerto).... I can't imagine a more thunderous or blackbrowed account of the concerto than this. It left me stirred and shaken...