Despite a career spanning more than 50 years and a gold medal at the Tchaikovsky Piano Competition (among others), pianist John Lill may be an artist sadly missing from many CD collections. Heralded as an intellectual musician, his approach to the instrument is decidedly academic and straightforward. This is not to say that his music-making is not impassioned or thoughtful anymore than the same could be said of Starker or Gingold simply because they are master technicians at their instruments.
Despite no doubt dedicated performances, this recording of Khachaturian's Piano Concerto, Sonatina, and Toccata are distinctly disappointing. Part of the responsibility for this is pianist Alberto Portugheis, who plays with plenty of panache but not enough power and nowhere near enough precision. Part of the responsibility is conductor Loris Tjeknavorian, who leads the London Symphony Orchestra in a tepid accompaniment to the Piano Concerto with especially grave ensemble and intonation problems in the slow movement. Part of the responsibility is AVS, which gives Portugheis, Tjeknavorian, and the LSO distant and dismal recorded sound. But most of the responsibility is the incontrovertible fact that William Kapell recorded the Khachaturian Piano Concerto at the height of his powers and, after that awesome achievement, any merely dedicated performance cannot help but sound distinctly disappointing.