Brilliant Classics have released a 15 disc collection of piano concertos by Russian composers. Most of the featured concertos are comparative rarities, both in the concert hall and in recordings, but they are generally well worth further exploration. Readers familiar with Hyperion’s excellent Romantic Piano Concertos series and the earlier sortie into these relatively uncharted waters on the Vox label will have encountered a number of these works. In addition to the somewhat esoteric works we have the three Rachmaninov concertos, both Tchaikovsky concertos, some of Prokofiev’s examples of this genre and both of Shostakovich’s concertos.
Among the lesser known works we find concertos by Lyapunov and Glazunov, performed by Dmitry Yablonsky, and Alexander Mosolov’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with Steffen Schleiermacher as the soloist. This latter work was new to me as indeed was the composer Mosolov.
A number of the works in this set feature the pianist Michael Ponti who was a stalwart of the aforementioned Vox series. We also find Bortkiewicz’ Piano Concertos Nos. 2 & 3 performed by Stefan Doniga with the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by David Porcelijn in a performance recently issued on the Piano Classics label. The two Shostakovich works come from a recent Naxos release featuring Boris Giltburg with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Vasily Petrenko as the conductor.
As is usually the case with box sets of this type, the standard of both performances and recordings is variable. One might prefer Stephen Coombs performances of the Arensky and Bortkiewicz concertos with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Jerzy Maksymiuk. Hamish Milne’s CD of Lyapunov’s Piano Concertos, another in Hyperion’s fabulous series, is quite beautiful and so I could go on. However to do so would be to miss the point. This set is incredibly good value for money and provides a great introduction to the breadth and depth of Russian piano concertos for those music lovers who have yet to discover the many hidden delights that lie beyond the piano concertos of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov.
¹ Price correct as of Monday 2 July 2018.