Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 3
San Francisco Chronicle
Mikhail Pletnev and the Russian National Orchestra scrub away the residue of received opinion about how the music ought to sound. Here are interpretations that are at once wholly original and entirely free of willful idiosyncrasy. You hear not only Beethoven but also a renewed sense of the potential of his work, the multiple universes of feeling, texture, drama and thought that the pieces contain.
Pletnev is an entrancing musician. How so begins with his total control of the whole instrument, not just the keyboard. He plays into the piano, using its in-built resonance to extract a range of prismatic sounds devoid of harshness. And his left hand has a sovereignty of its own, so bass-lines often acquire unusual significance. Co-ordinate such mastery with profound responses to the music, and extraordinary interpretations follow.
[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.
The old rhetoric is ditched; in comes the probing dart, the punctured rhythm and largos as cool as a mountain stream . . . Thumbs up for the Russian National Orchestra and conductor Christian Gansch.
Like most things Pletnev has done, you can count on the recordings' being a wild ride. He loves breaking the music's pulse to spotlight a particular element, chooses Beethoven's more obscure cadenzas, and plays them so freely you might not even recognize them as Beethoven. Even in rhythmically strict passages of the Piano Concerto No. 3, Pletnev proceeds with a give-and-take tempo that makes previously unimagined expressive points . . . I enjoy hearing these performances as one of many ways into the master's music . . .
Dallas Morning News
Beethoven's first and third concertos were formerly territory occupied by two of his great Russian predecessors, Sviatoslav Richter and Emil Gilels. Mr. Pletnev walks in their footsteps, making grandeur and primal energy his top priorities. Of course, the man's magical fingers turn even a common scale into perfectly matched pearls – so there's a quantity of elegance, too... Christian Gansch is at the podium leading the orchestra that Mr. Pletnev built into his country's finest. The playing certainly sounds idiomatic and stylish – not something you would have expected from a Russian orchestra a generation ago.
...this CD is something new and something special. [Pletnev's style] brims full of personality and guts, and here cajoles two endlessly familiar works to emerge as contemporary and challenging....This is playing that sticks in the memory. The Russian National Orchestra under Christian Gansch play with much fervour throughout...
. . . one of the very greatest around today . . . The clarity of Pletnev's tone and the diamond-sharp articulation of every detail in his playing have a brilliance that few pianists can match . . .
The clarity of Pletnev's tone and the diamond-sharp articulation of every detail in his playing have a brilliance that few pianists can match.