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Khatia Buniatishvili, Czech Philharmonic, Paavo Järvi
When it comes to a toss-up between slow-release rumination and velocity, I’ll take the former any time. Khatia Buniatishvili’s last release – Pictures at an Exhibition, La Valse and Three Movements from Petrouchka – was a brutal disaster to my ears, showing little regard or understanding for the music. She fares a great deal better here, although both these performances often lack what virtually all Rachmaninov’s music needs most: that uniquely Russian sense of yearning, with an overlay of stoic resignation. This is where the slow release rumination comes in!
Both these concertos are played faster than usual. One of the great challenges for this music, especially the Second, is that of revealing a new insight beneath the ‘dazzling virtuosity’, which here, like that of virtually every other artist who records this repertoire now, is impressive. The recording also militates against the contribution
of the Czech Philharmonic, which is recessively recorded and doesn’t provide the luxuriant backing that we hear from the Philadelphia orchestra in Daniil Trifonov’s recent triumphant CD.
The Third Concerto likewise comes up slightly short with persistently low voltage until near the very end, when she lets the rhetoric rip. I found myself yearning for those langorous orchestral sighs which punctuate the most heartflet performances of Rachmaninov’s music. These are not without poetry, it’s just that there’s not enough of it.