Prokofiev, Rachmaninov: Piano Concertos No. 3

Concerto for Piano no 3 in C major, Op. 26
Concerto for Piano no 3 in D minor, Op. 30
Mikhail Pletnev, piano
Mstislav Rostropovich, conductor

Nominated for a GRAMMY Award
DG 471476
Purchase via RNO iTunes


Nominated for GRAMMY Award, 2004



The flowing tempo and long line of the opening theme [of the Rachmaninov piano concerto] set a particular tone, its beauty carefully chiselled, without ostentation, whereas the transition to the second subject is more conventionally romantic. Pletnev makes sense of it all... For once we have a pianist as deft and suave as the composer himself, and the absolute security of his articulation can take the breath away even in apparently uninteresting transitional passages...

"In the Prokofiev, Pletnev's fingerwork reveals the bejewelled nature of the composer's keyboard writing as never before... I should stress that the first movement of the Concerto is very fine indeed, with the Russian players unexpectedly poised and Ravelian at the start, while in the second movement's variation subject Rostropovich has enough space to ensure that Prokofiev's quirky phrasing actually registers.

The Guardian

...arguably the finest studio-made performance since Horowitz's more than half a century ago.

The Moscow Times

Pletnev gives a patrician account of the Rachmaninov, beautifully nuanced in melodic shaping and structurally lucid. His sparkling performance of Prokofiev's most popular piano concerto captures both its lyrical urges and incisive wit.

[Pletnev] plays both concertos with facility, elegance and sensitivity. His urbane and witty reading of the Prokofiev Third is particularly winning; one suspects that the composer would have loved it... Pletnev's elegance and coy wit should captivate almost anyone who values great piano playing.


[Mikhail Pletnev] has technique to burn and a wonderful sense of Russian melos… he takes a fluid, almost improvisatory approach, seconded admirably by Rostropovich… There is much fine mezzo voce playing from the orchestra [with] mellow, almost woodwind-sounding horns, sonorous lower brass, and a string section capable of surging and soaring… tempo shifts are negotiated convincingly because they come from a deeply idiomatic understanding of the music.

Classic FM magazine

Two of today's greatest Russian musicians come together on home turf in two monumental concertos. The results are breathtaking, replete with muscle and magic. There's no suggestion of cheap barnstorming or soupiness in the much- maligned 'Rach 3': instead Pletnev transforms into dreamer and prophet, spinning the most delicate of aural cobwebs or building up the cadenza into a devasting climax. The Prokofiev shines out with brightness, wit and modern idiosyncrasy. Go and buy this immediately.

... Prokofiev and Rachmaninov make a splendid pair in these absolutely superb and riveting performances of their respective Third Piano Concertos. ... Pletnev gives us a Rachmaninov Third ... that is a model of probity and clarity with nary a sentimental moment. Lean textures suffuse his playing, and his interaction with the orchestra is balanced and thoughtful such that for once the texture never degenerates into a sonic sludgefest. Pletnev knows instinctively when to give way, so that the incidental flourishes in the piano recede gently into the accompaniment, allowing the marvelous orchestral themes to come through brilliantly. ... Pletnev and Rostropovich fire on all cylinders in an explosive third movement that is simply jaw-dropping--rhythmically propulsive and tightly wound. Pletnev rings out those notoriously difficult upper-range passages in a dazzling, flying-fingers exhibition, and the concerto finishes gloriously with the trumpets in terrific form. The Prokofiev represents an apt segue from this last movement in a reading that, while played at deliberate tempo, remains extraordinarily taut. ... Virtually every note from orchestra and pianist is a crisp staccato, an element that surely reinforces Prokofiev's brittle, precisely defined score. ... Rarely do you hear the orchestra and piano so together as an ensemble in those famous 16th-note passages that frame the opening and conclusion of the first movement. ... Pletnev's technique is so fine that the climactic third-movement glissandos sound as if they are played note for note, rather than with hands sliding back and forth. ... These are personal, richly characterized performances unlike any others, captured in wonderful sound, and should not be missed.

San Francisco Chronicle

No one looks to the Rachmaninoff Third Piano Concerto for logical construction or lucidity of design. But in his remarkable new recording, pianist Mikhail Pletnev actually makes this old warhorse sound not only lush and effusive, but rational to boot. ... Pletnev's playing seems to encompass both untrammeled emotionalism and analytic clarity in one sweep, giving the concerto a sense of purpose that it doesn't often have. ... The clarity and precision of his [Pletnev's] playing are startling. ...

Time Out New York

The partnership of Russian pianist Mikhail Pletnev and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich is a collaboration in the truest sense; at no point does either soloist or conductor conspicuously lead the way in this recording of two of the most popular and frequently performed Russian concertos. Pletnev's formidable technique equips him ideally for Rachmaninoff's longest, most demanding concerto. His tone [is] consistently rich and firmly weighted. ...

In the Prokofiev concerto, Pletnev [achieves] an unusual grandeur that makes Ashkenazy and Previn’s more conventionally romantic interpretation seem generic by comparison… If the surging finale’s conclusion slightly hangs fire, chalk it up to the unwillingness of the performers to settle for a routine finish. Instead, they offer by far the freshest available accounts of these familiar concertos, enlivening accepted norms of tempo, phrasing and balance by dint of sheer musical insight.

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