TSONTAKIS: Man of Sorrows. Sarabesque. SCHOENBERG: Six Little Piano Pieces, Op. 19. BERG: Piano Sonata, Op. 1. WEBERN: Variations for Piano, Op. 27.
Stephen Hough, pianist; Dallas Symphony Orch/Andrew Litton, cond.
HYPERION CDA 67564 (F) TT: 67:35

BERIO: Sonata per pianoforte solo. Six Encores. Rounds. Sequenza IV. Cinque Variazioni. Touch. Canzonetta.
Andrea Lucchesini, pianist
AVIE AV2104 (F) TT: 61:32

LISZT: Piano Concerto No. 1 in E Flat. Piano Concerto No. 2 in A. Sonata in B minor. Mephisto Waltz No. l
Jorge Bolet, pianist; Rochester Symphony Orch/David Zinman, cond.
ALTO ALC 1011 (XZX) TT: 79:15

GRIEG: Ballade in G minor, Op. 24. Six Lyric Pieces. Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16.
Leif Ove Andsnes, pianist; Berlin Philharmonic Orch/Mariss Jansons, cond. (concerto)
EMI CLASSICS 94399 TT: 71:30

MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K. 491. SCHUMANN: Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54.
Evgeny Kissin, pianist; London Symphony Orch/Sir Colin Davis, cond.
EMI CLASSICS 82879 (F) TT: 62:19

Stephen Hough continues his diverse recording activities with a disk featuring music written for him by George Tsontakis. Hough gave the premiere of Man of Sorrows in September 2005 with Andrew Litton and the Dallas Symphony; this recording was made during those premiere performances. Man of Sorrows is a 39-minute" tone poem" for piano and orchestra in six sections, a meditation on Christ's crucifixion. Often it suggests Messiaen's Turangalila, although not as heavily orchestrated. Tsontakis quotes briefly from Beethoven, a phrase from a string quartet and the Diabelli Variations. Surely this performance is as definitive as possible but it's unlikely Man of Sorrows will often be heard in the concert hall. The Schoenberg, Berg and Webern pieces are equally well played. As usual with Hyperion, sonic quality is excellent. This is a challenging disk for adventurous listeners. Also challenging is Avie's disk of piano music of Luciano Berio (1925-2003) played by Andrea Lucchesini. Apparently this CD contains all of Berio's piano music. This music is as austere as it gets, far removed from the brilliance and access ability of Berio's ext-known work, Sinfonia.

Alto, a new budget-priced label, is releasing a number of intriguing recordings from the past newly remastered from a number of labels. One of their finest issues is Jorge Bolet's vivid performances of piano music of Liszt, the two concertos recorded in October 1979 with David Zinman and the Rochester Philharmonic, originally on Vox, and the Sonata in B minor and Mephisto Waltz No. 1 recorded in 1960 for Everest. Bolet was in his prime at this time, and these Liszt performances show him at his best, and in superb sonics.

Music of Grieg is featured on EMI's new issue with pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, issued to mark the centennial of Grieg's death in 1907. It's unfortunate the label included the pianist's Berlin recording of the piano concerto issued several years ago (see REVIEW). Most interested collectors would already have that fine performance, and the new disk easily could have contained more other piano music of the composer. The featured work is the large-scale Ballade, Op. 24, actually a theme and fourteen variations, music known to many from Arthur Rubinstein's 1953 RCA recording (although many other pianists have recorded it). Andsnes's new CD is filled out with six of the lyric pieces recorded in 2001 on Grieg's piano in Troldhaugen.. A "feature" is "Opendisc." On the back of the CD it tells you to insert the CD into your computer for access to bonus materials (although it doesn't say what these "bonus materials" are). However, in order to access these "features" you are required to give personal information about yourself. Is this really a "feature"?

12-year old Evgeny Kissin amazed the musical world in 1984 when he played both of Chopin's concertos. Since that time, the Russian pianist has recorded prolifically for various labels, particularly RCA and DGG. Now he has signed a contract with EMI and the first release is a coupling of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 24 and Schumann's concerto (his second of the work; he recorded it live in Vienna in 1992 with Carlo Maria Giulini on the podium). These new recordings were also recorded live in London's Barbican Hall, September 22-28, 2006 and could just as well have been issued in the LSO Live series. The performances are not among Kissin's finest. His dynamic approach to the Mozart negates the work's sad charm, and the Schumann is edgy with pianist and conductor sometimes at odds with each other. Producers Stephen Johns and Jay David Saks, and recording engineer Jonathan Stokes, have provided an aural picture that is bold but uneven, the piano not always well balanced with the orchestra.

R.E.B. (October 2007)