A new release is an auspicious introduction to the survey of Prokofiev’s piano concertos by Vadym Kholodenko, Miguel Harth-Bedoya and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra.
The relatively well-known second concerto is paired with the fifth and final concerto, which is not familiar to most of the concert-going public.
Those who have heard Kholodenko’s live performances of these pieces will know that their technical difficulties pose no difficulties for him. But they will also know that he is a master of subtlety and lyric grace — qualities necessary in Prokofiev’s music though not always associated with the composer.
The opening measures of the Concerto No. 2 bring these qualities to the fore. In Kholodenko’s hands, this gentle music, fluid in tempo and dynamics, creates a haunting effect.
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There is an abrupt change in tempo and mood with the second movement, a perpetuum mobile that is as vivacious as it is brief and energetic.
And so it goes: Quiet interludes alternate with passionate ones, including a final allegro tempestoso that is a virtuoso test vehicle (and, in live performance, a surefire crowd-pleaser).
Harth-Bedoya and the orchestra are precise collaborators, though I get the feeling in this recording that the engineering favors the soloist over the orchestra.
The fifth concerto, which is full of personality, should win some converts among Prokofiev skeptics. There is a strong playful streak in much of Prokofiev’s music, and that is definitely true here. The moderato ben accentuato is in that class, as is the (very brief) toccata.
The opening and closing movements (there are five) are full of virtuosic fire.
Once again, the larghetto movement, like the opening of the second concerto, is a masterpiece of lyric grace in both the piano and orchestra.
The first, third and fourth concertos by Prokofiev will be released on a single disc next year. The third concerto, which was postponed in March because of the death of Kholodenko’s two daughters, will be recorded in November, FWSO says.
Prokofiev: Piano Concertos 2 & 5
- Vadym Kholodenko, pianist
- Miguel Harth-Bedoya conducting the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra
- Harmonia Mundi