Firma Melodiya presents recordings of Brahms and Prokofiev concertos performed by Natalia Gutman and Oleg Kagan. One of the worlds best cellists, a Peoples Artist of the USSR, and an owner of the State Prize of Russia, Natalia Gutman received four competition prizes when she was a student.
This is a live recording, made at a pair of concerts in May, and ‘live’ is undoubtedly the word for it. All the performances have an improvisatory quality, interpretative decisions seemingly made before your very ears. At the beginning of the Prokofiev it is as though Mutter and Orkis, realising that the audience in the Beethovensaal are already uncommonly silent and attentive, had decided after a quick glance at each other to begin the Sonata almost confidingly, with quiet tenderness and muted colour.
Winning first prize at the 1989 Van Cliburn Competition, Alexei Sultanov enjoyed a meteoric rise of epic proportions, with a major recording contract, Carnegie Hall recital, American and European tours, and TV appearances with Johnny Carson, David Letterman, and other notables. But Sultanov's star soon fell to Earth as critics would often characterize his bold style in unflattering terms, finding his interpretive manner feral and superficial, and his herculean fortes ostentatious: he broke a string during a performance of the Liszt First Mephisto Waltz at the Cliburn Competition. But the youthful pianist's health soon proved a more formidable opponent than any critic's pen, as a series of strokes sabotaged his career, eventually leaving him paralyzed on his left side after 2001. Though he died at 35, Sultanov left a memorable though controversial legacy. His Prokofiev, Chopin, Rachmaninov, and Scriabin could rivet the listener, while his Beethoven and Mozart might have been less consistently engaging. His recordings, mostly available from Warner Classics, document the enormous talent of this imaginative performer, a pianist unafraid to take interpretive chances.
This is the second and final disc in a cycle of Sergei Prokofiev’s piano concertos with pianist Olli Mustonen and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Hannu Lintu. Of the first volume, Gramophone wrote: 'How many times have I regretted a shortage of fantasy, flair and fairy-tale imagination in recordings of the Prokofiev piano concertos? Well, here is a disc that takes all those qualities to the top'.