PIANIST. Prokofiev Concertos

October 2005

Sergei Prokofiev
The five piano concertos
Oleg Marshev (pf); South Jutland Symphony Orchestra/Niklas Willèn(cond)
Danacord DACOCD 584-585

It says a lot for a record company like Danacord that it is prepared to stick with its artists enough to entrust them with the repertoire that’s as popular as the Prokofiev piano concertos. With a pianist like Oleg Marshev – who has the complete Rachmaninov and Shostakovich concertos, complete Prokofiev solo piano music, von Sauer sonatas and studies, and much more under his belt for the Danish label – there was no doubt that the Marshev Prokofiev concerto cycle was going to be something to look forward to. But is it individual enough to stand out against the crowd?

The short answer is: yes. First of all, Marshev’s playing is spectacularly good: his passagework is briliantly sure-footed and his tone full-bodied. It’s the tone, in fact, that points the way towards the individuality of this cycle. Most pianists approach the Prokofiev concertos as if they were the first of the modern age, all rattling toccatas and mechanical energy. Marshev, a romantic pianist par excellence, is not a cavalier with the past. His Prokofiev is a less-aggressive creature than usual; in Marshev’s hands these concertos appear an evolution to be from Romantic period rather than a revolt against it. He is especially keen to let Prokofiev’s gentler passages sing, finding lyricism where other pianists tend to be brittle. To be sure, the South Jutland Symphony Orchestra isn’t quite the Berlin Phil, but under Niklas Willèn they play with considerable flair, sympathetically following Marshev’s understanding of the music. I would have preferred a warmer string sound, and less of an edge to Marshev’s piano tone in the louder passages. But these are minor caveats: there’s nothing here that will blunt your enjoyment of the music. The booklet contains a fine extended essay by the Prokofiev biographer Daniel Jaffй. Outstanding!

Martin Anderson