Pletnev Live at Carnegie
BACH/BUSONI Chaconne in
D minor, BWV1004.
(1770-1827) Piano Sonata
No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111.
CHOPIN (1810-49) Four
BONUS CD: ENCORES: Sergei
Etude-tableau in E flat minor, Op. 39 No. 5.
in F sharp minor, Op. 32 No. 1.
Keyboard Sonata in D minor, K9.
(1854-1925) Etude de
virtuosité in F, Op. 72 No. 6.
Mikhail Pletnev (piano).
Carnegie Hall, November 1st, 2000
DG 471 157-2 [two discs]
Martin Meyer's positively hero-worshipping note to this document of Mikhail
Pletnev's Carnegie Hall debut (Wednesday, November 1st, 2000), plus Pletnev's
printed statement of intent mean that the actual experience of listening
to this recital has an incredible amount to live up to. Pletnev writes that
(re the Beethoven), 'There's an enormous quantity of tiny details. All these
elements should be audible in my performance, but without disturbing the
overall design'. Some would say this is merely stating the obvious, others
would say that this is to aspire to the impossible. The balance between the
two comes out in the greatest of performances. Whether Pletnev succeeds is
very fertile grounds for debate.
Certainly the Bach/Busoni Chaconne is very much up his Prospekt. Pletnev
achieves the necessary cumulative effect. His sound is big, without being
imposingly enormous, the only minus point being that his bass is slightly
hard. One can but marvel at the clarity of the fingerwork (especially given
that this is taken live).
These strong fingers return to impress the listener in Beethoven's great
and final C minor Sonata. Articulation in the difficult first movement is
crystal clear and his chords at the opening are full and obviously very carefully
weighted. But doubts as to whether he can achieve the claims of the booklet
creep in here: never at any stage is the listener aware that one is listening
to one of the greatest pieces ever written for the piano. Similarly, the
heavenly Arietta's theme is well-voiced and possessed of smooth, singing
cantabile. But our guide never takes us to the Elysian Fields, preferring
instead to interrupt the flow with some ill-timed pauses (which may have
been tension-laden in the hall itself) and leave us firmly in an autumnal
At least at first, there appears to be a better balancing of sections and
more identification with the composer in the Chopin Scherzos. Once
more, stunning clarity is the watch-word in the fiendish B minor
Scherzo, Op. 20, but doubts begin to creep in as the sound world created
fails to draw the listener in to Chopin's world: so, for example, once more
one can respect the cascades of the Third Scherzo without getting emotionally
involved. By now, a pattern seems to be developing of a clean technique which
never seems entirely at the service of a fully formed interpretative statement.
Contrasting sections on the Scherzos become too languorous too easily and
thus become disconnected from the musical thread.
Still, the audience liked it. So much so, in fact, that there are 22 minutes
of encores (the bonus disc). The Rachmaninov Etude-tableau is appropriately
stormy, Scriabin's dreamy Poème providing a cooling balm.
Scarlatti's D minor Sonata, so famous to amateur pianists because of Associated
Board publications, is taken in a Romantic setting. The Moszkowski is an
entertaining diversion into Horowitz territory.
To encore Balakirev's Islamey is, to say the least, brave (some would
say foolhardy). It turns out to be the redeeming feature of the recital.
Here at last caution is thrown firmly to the wind. Never mind the occasional
handful, the spirit has finally arrived. And it is, after all, better late