TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, Op. 23. RACHMANINOFF: Prelude in G-flat major, Op. 23 No. 10. Moment Musical in E-flat minor, Op. 16 No. 2. Daisies, Op. 38. No. 3. Prelude in G, Op. 32 No. 5. Oriental Sketch. Melodie in E, Op. 3 No. 3. RACHMANINOFF-VOLODOS: Concert Paraphrase on Polka italienne.
Arcadi Volodos, pianist; Berlin Philharmonic Orch/Seiji Ozawa, cond.
SONY CLASSICAL SH 93067 (F) TT: 54:27 (5.1 channel)

TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, Op. 23. MENDELSSOHN: Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 25.
Lang Lang, pianist; Chicago Symphony Orch/Daniel Barenboim, cond.
DGG 474 637 (F) (DDD) TT: 59:26
(5.1 channel)

TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, Op. 23. Violin Concerto in D, Op. 35.
Nikolai Lugansky, pianist; Christian Tetzlaff, violinist; Russian National Orch/Kent Nagano, cond.
PENTATONE PTC 5186 022 (F) (5 channel)

The Lang Lang recording was recently reviewed on this site. See REVIEW for more comments on the performance. Hearing it now in 5.1 surround does make the sound more impressive. However, the more I hear this performance of the Tchaikovsky the more annoyed I am with the exaggerated dynamics and mincing approach to the quieter sections. A blessing is that we don't have to watch the Chinese pianist go through his manifold facial and body high-jinks.

Arcadi Volodos' recording is another matter—dynamite all the way—and recorded during live performances in Berlin in June 2002. Ozawa's accompaniment also is superior to Barenboim's for Lang Lang. The surround sound is big and full, although on occasion the piano sounds somewhat recessed. The six Rachmaninoff solos are exquisitely played, with Volodos' own arrangement of Rachmaninoff's Polka italiene as a welcome dazzling conclusion to the CD. It's unfortunate there weren't more solos—playing time of the CD is consideraby less than an hour.

Pentatone's coupling of Tchaikovsky's two most popular concertos is a winner. First of all, the sound is absolutely first-rate, recorded February 2003 in the Concert Hall of the Moscow Conservatory. Wilhelm Hellweg was the producer, Erdo Groot the balance engineer, and both did a magnificent job. The sonic picture is bold and big, with solo instruments perfectly balanced against the orchestra. And there's plenty of bass, even though this recording doesn't have the .1 low frequency channel. Christian Tetzlaff gives a fiery interpretation of the violin concerto's two outer movements, a highly expressive one of the exquisite Canzonetta. Russian pianist Nikolai Lugansky has won many competitions and already has a distinguished career. This straight-forward but exciting performance of Tchaikovsky One surely will add lustre to his reputation.

Of the three SACDs covered here the only two worth consideration are those by Volodos and Lugansky/Tetzlaff.

R.E.B. (December 2003) (NEXT SURROUND REVIEW)