Gramophone Awards Issue 2014
Felix Mendelssohn—Complete Works for Piano & Orchestra South Jutland Symphony Orchestra / Cond. David Porcelijn Danacord DACOCD 734-736
GRAMOPHONE—MUSSORGSKY Pictures at an Exhibition—piano version, orchestral version (orch Ravel)
Oleg Marshev pf Odense Symphony Orchestra / Jan Wagner Danacord DACOCD656 (70′.DDD)
A fascinating opportunity to compare the piano and orchestral Pictures
Coupling Mussorgsky’s original piano version of Pictures at an Exhibition with Ravel’s celebrated orchestral transcription makes for fascinating listening. This is largely because the ferocity of much of Mussorgsky’s piano-writing is tempered by Ravel with a dazzling but typically Gallic elegance. And this makes it no exaggeration to claim that a single instrument comes to exceed the impact of full orchestra.
Such ironic grandeur is made abundantly clear by Oleg arshev, whose all-Russian mastery takes nothing for granted providing, even in a crowded marketplace, one of the finest Pictures on record. From him every “Promenade”, whether triumphant or introspective, is a refreshing break from th dazzling and awe-inspiring pictures on view. His “Il vecchio castelllo” is alive with incidental but never surplus detail, his “Bydlo” a pulverizing, uncompromising vision. His trills in the trio of the “Ballet des poussins dans leur coques” are delicate and luminous, and his virtuosity in “Limoges” and in the final magisterial pages gloriously uplifting.
All of which makes Jan Wagner and the Odense Symphony Orchestra a less thrilling experience, particularly in the lack of the composer’s prescribed vivo in the “Ballet des poussins” or in the tame view of the con brio and force indications above Baba Yaga’s infernal flight. Elsewhere the playing is warmly affectionate even when it contributes to a view (shared by Vladimir Ashkenazy) that Ravel’s orchestration is Mussorgsky gentrified with too many rough places made plain. Danacord’s sound, while less vivid than from some, is fine and there are excellent accompanying notes by Malcolm MacDonald.
MUSSORGSKY Pictures at an Exhibition
Oleg Marshev displays a super-size virtuosity
Oleg Marshev in recital
An astonishing release from a pianist perfectly attuned to this repertoire.
Chopin Three Waltzes, Op 34. Ballade No 4,Op 52 Liszt Funerailles, S173 No 7. Rhapsodie espagnole, S254. Etudes d’execution transcendante, S139-No 10 Scriabin Mazurkas–Op 25No 3; Op 40 Nos 1 & 2. Poemes, Op 32. Preludes, Op 15. Vers la flamme, Op 72
Oleg Marshev pf
Danacord DACOCD677 (79′ • DDD)
This recital shows Oleg Marshev’s formidable powers in a dazzling, ultra-Romantic light. Yet his super-size virtuosity – a place where muscles bulge and ripple – is backed by a no less enthralling musicianship. Marshev’s earlier record of the Liszt-Tausig Tasso will have alerted even the most blase virtuoso-fancier to exceptional powers and here in the Rhapsodie espagnole he sets all guns blazing, sinking up to his shoulders rather than mere elbows in an engulfing brilliance. His Funerailles, too, is hypnotically graphic and threatening, building remorselessly to a ferocious climax, and in the tenth of the Transcendental Etudes there is a superb sense of its appassionato F minor turbulence. Such virtuosity is scarcely less visceral in Chopin, with the closing pages of the Fourth Ballade heated to boiling-point, though relaxing in a selection of waltzes into an open-hearted relish of everything the composer has to offer. Poised and patrician in Rubinstein’s or Lipatti’s sense he may not be, but he makes it impossible to resist such character and liberation, such rich and lavish musical breathing. Marshev is on home ground in Scriabin, memorably attuned to his volatility and introspection, to those startling shifts of mood and emphasis at the heart of his bewildering genius. This is an astonishing, all-stops-out release, beautifully recorded. And how gratifying to know that there are many more on the way.
GRAMOPHONE Awards Special Issue 2007
A stunning Second Concerto from Marshev, back on outstanding form
Tchaikovsky Complete Works for Piano and Orchestra Oleg Marshev pf Aalborg Symphony Orchestra / Owain Arwel Hughes Danacord DACOCD 586-587
Marshev returns to top form, all guns blazing, with the three piano concertos (the last two movements of No 3 orchestrated by Taneyev as the Andante and Finale in B flat/E flat, Op 79), the Concert Fantasia in G and Tchaikovsky’s rarely heard early Allegro in C minor for piano and strings. The latter dates from his student days (1863-64) and lasts a mere 2’30”. It was only unearthed in 1965 and, while hardly significant music, is an interesting sign of things to come. David Fanning’s comprehensive essay on the evolution of the six works on these two discs is a further reason to invest.
But to the main fare. The much-thumbed pages of the B flat minor Concerto come up as fresh as paint without any startling revelations, a fine account with all concerned at one with the spirit and the letter. No 2, however, recorded a year later in August 2002, is quite outstanding. The first movement’s bracing tempo (a true allegro brillante e molto vivace) allows Marshev to revel in the massive piano-writing to properly heroic effect, the brittle tone that he prefers well pitted against the Aalborg players, especially the enthusiastic brass section. The highlight of the two discs, though, is the slow movement. Played without Ziloti’s cuts, it is one of the most affecting accounts I’ve heard (Alexander Zeiher, violin, and Vincent Stadlmaier, cello, are Marshev’s partners).
With the Third Concerto (Marshev’s first movement comparable with an old personal favourite – Gary Graffman and Ormandy) and the Concert Fantasia handled in a similar vein, all 134 minutes of music come enthusiastically recommended.
The Eraly Brahms
Piano Sonata No. 1, Op.1. Variations on a Theme by Schumann, Op. 9. Four Ballades, Op. 10
Oleg Marshev (pf)
Danacord DACOCD 643
Ringing authority in early Brahms from this gifted pianist
Having wandered engagingly down the country lanes of Sauer, Pabst and Richard Strauss, the prolific Oleg Marshev, Danacord’s gifted star pianist, is firmly on the motorway for his latest venture. The results are impressive.
Though at least six works preceded the First Sonata in C major, Brahms’s designated op.1 announced the arrival of its 19-year-old composer with unabashed self-confidence. After the expansive first movement, with its barely disguised genuflection to Beethoven and the Hammerklavier, there follows a set of variations on a German folksong, a fiery Scherzo and an exuberant finale.
Marshev handles the heavy chordal writing with exemplary clarity and a ringing authority reminiscent of Katchen (who, however, does not include the first movement repeat). The Four Ballades are thoughtful and sensitive, coloured, as are all these performances, by the slightly astringent tone this artist favours.
For me, Marshev’s finest account is of the Schumann Variations, based on a theme from Bunte Bltter, a keenly observed reading that underlines its tragic undertone (his friend Schumann was already in a mental institution). Variation 10 (Poco adagio) and the final dying pages of Variations 15 and 16 are touchingly done. I’d direct you to the track numbers if Danacord had allowed me to.
Prokofiev piano works
Volumes 1 and 2. Oleg Marshev (pf). Danacord (Full price) (CD) DACOCD391/2 (two discs: 74 and 64 minutes: DDD).
DACOCD391: Sonatas-No. 6 in A, Op. 82; No. 7 in B flat, Op. 83. Dumka. Visions fugitives, Op. 22.
DACOCD392: Sonatas-No. 1 in F minor, Op. 1; No. 8 in B flat, Op. 84. Four Pieces, Op. 3. Three Pieces, Op. 59. The tales of an old grandmother, Op. 31.
Oleg Marshev’s Prokofiev is the complete antithesis of Chiu’s. Marshev prefers the dynamic, full-throated volcanic approach (though he is certainly not afraid to allow lyricism into the music when called upon to do so) and he is also more of a charismatic performer, allowing greater interaction between pianist and music, and hence greater involvement for the listener. Volume one of his complete survey opens with a commanding, virtuosic performance of the Sixth Sonata which compared to Chiu simply teems with detail and subtle nuance. The second movement Allegretto is delivered with tremendous flair and elan in the outer sections, and the phlegmatic third movement is beautifully paced and crafted. Marshev unleashes the full power of his formidable armoury in the tumultuous finale, where in the closing bars he almost hits boiling-point in terms of sheer virtuosity; his performance may not quite reach those of Kissin or Pogorelich but this is certainly a recording that I would be happy to live with. In contrast, the early Dumka (here receiving only its second recording) is given a beautifully poised and effortless reading, and the same can be said of Marshev’s extremely fine account of the Visions fugitives, which can be added to the growing throng of commendable recordings in the catalogue. Marshev concludes the first volume with a stunning account of the Seventh Sonata, which to my mind approaches Pollini’s classic recording for its breadth of vision, dynamic control and sheer virtuosity; pianistically it has all one could wish for-superb rhythmic impetus, tremendous force, wonderful phrasing and in the slower, more reflective moments beautiful tonal control and expressive nuance. The fearsome, toccata finale can only be compared to Pollini’s scorching reading for its accuracy and heart-pounding excitement, and indeed after his recording this would be my clear first choice. Recording is full bodied.
Marshev’s second disc is every bit as impressive as his first. The short, youthful First Sonata can only be played for what it is, a tremendous outpouring of late-romantic gesture-and that’s exactly how Marshev tackles it; the result is one of the most authoritative and impassioned, romantic performances on disc so far. Berman’s account on Chandos has been my first choice up to now, but I have no hesitation in promoting this newcomer as my primary recommendation. Berman of course is the obvious point of reference for the shorter pieces presented on this disc too, and although Marshev’s performances of The tales of an old grandmother and the Four Pieces, Op. 3 and Three Pieces, Op. 59 do not possess the same degree of delicate shading and coloration as Berman’s, they are nevertheless imbued with great sensitivity and poise; the Op. 59 pieces, I thought, were particularly well drawn and enjoyable. Sadly, Marshev lets the side down rather badly in the first movement of the Eighth Sonata (allegro moderato, bar 90 onwards), where he goes against the written pianissimo and piano markings by playing mezzo forte and forte-no one has ever quite matched Richter’s spellbinding reading of this passage. That flaw is a pity, when in all other aspects this is a very fine performance, not least his exceptionally serene and lyrical account of the slow movement. The recorded sound of both volumes has a slightly over-resonant bloom (especially in the more forceful passages), but otherwise is nicely focused and warmly atmospheric. I greatly look forward to future installments in this cycle.
Morceaux de fantaisie, Op 3. Piano Sonata No 2 in B flat minor, Op 36 (rev. ver), Variations on a theme of Corelli, Op 42.
Oleg Marshev (pf) / Danacord DACOCD525 / 67 DDD
Following his highly praised Prokofiev cycle for Danacord, Oleg Marshev turns to Rachmaninov, whom Prokofiev outwardly despised but inwardly admired. Born in Russia but based in Italy, Marshev reveals his roots in every brooding and impassioned bar. Scorning an easy virtuoso aplomb, he takes us to the poetic core of the Second Sonata, a turbulent masterpiece best heard in its original 1913 version rather than the 1931 revision played here. Even given the composer’s lugubrious dismissal of his first thoughts, his feeling that they were overly ornate and extended, his 1931 version is brutally truncated and the sequences so central to his style are modified to a harsh degree. But Marshev offers a magnificent performance, having all the time in the world to make his points, turning what can easily become a mere display piece (so often served up for superficial effect on the competition circuit) into something strikingly sombre and powerful.
Fantasie on “Mazeppa” (Tchaikovsky). Paraphrase on “Eugene Onegin” (Tchaikovsky).
Reminiscences of “The Demon” (Rubinstein). Paraphrase on “Sleeping Beauty” (Tchaikovsky).
Illustrations of “The Queen of Spades” (Tchaikovsky).
(arr. Pabst) Cradle Song, Op. 16 No. 1.
Oleg Marshev (pf) / Danacord DACOCD450 / 68 DDD
Pavel Pabst (1854-97, his name is often anglicized to Paul Pabst) did not achieve the fame of his pianistic colleagues mainly because he chose to concentrate on teaching (his pupils included Lyapunov and Goldenweiser) rather than performing. He is known today chiefly through his Paraphrase on “Eugene Onegin”, and his other paraphrases remain largely unfamiliar. In adopting Liszt’s model Pabst inherited many of the essential ingredients, but his piano textures are generally more contrived and he is less inventive and original, although, like Thalberg, he knew how to decorate a good tune. This is musical confetti, and it relies heavily on the personality and charisma of the pianist for its success.
Fortunately Oleg Marshev is fully attuned to the task. He has all the technique required for the taxing pianistic acrobatics and he infuses the music with charm and character.