RACHMANINOFF: Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30. PROKOFIEV: Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor
Yuja Wang, piano; Simon Bolivar Orch/Gustavo Dudamel, cond.
DGG B0019102 TT: 71:49

GOUNOD: Suite Concertante in A. Concerto for pedal piano in E flat. Fantaisie sur l'hymme national russe. Danse roumaine.
Roberto Prosseda, pedal piano; Orchestra Della Svizzera Italiana/Howard Shelley, cond.
HYPERION CD 67973 TT: 55:56

BUSONI: Elegies. Nuit de Noël. Fantasia after J S Bach. Canonic Variations and Fugue. Giga, bolero e variations. Six Sonatinas. Indianisches Erntelied. Indianisches Tagebuch. Three Albumleaves. Toccata: Prelude, Fantsia, Ciagcona. Prologue. excerpts from Klavierübung. Nine Varitions on a Chopin Prelude. Seven Short Pieces for the Cultivation of Polyphonic Playing. Perpetuum mobile. Prelude et étude en arpèges.
Mark-André Hamelin, piano
HYPERION CDA 67951/3 (3 disks) TT: 195:54

PIERS LANE GOES TO TOWN: Music of Parker, Lane, Doheny, Ieland, Bach, Mayerl, Delibes, Rachmaninoff, Confrey, Saya, Sherwin, Poulenc, Templeton, Benjamin, Keane, Hopkins, Karg-Elert, Moore, and Grainger.
Piere Lane, piano
HYPERION CSA 67967 TT: 76:10

Lieder (Onyu Park, soprano; Michae Mentzel, baritone).Divertimento for Two Pianos. Little Music for Three Violins. Melodrama for speaker and piano (Michael Mentzel). SCARLATTI-GIESEKING: Sonata in G. Caconne on a theme by Scarlatti. Das Kaiserin. Untitled (Charleston). Der "Schorsch Batschi (Foxtrot).Shelley Sender, Christian Iheading, Joy Mentzel, pianos; Daniel Sender,Francis Liu and Jonathan Richards, violins;
CENTAUR 3215 TT: 78:54

Young Chinese pianist Yuja Wang (b. 1987) has a spectacular career appearing in recitals and with major orchestras and top conductors. She has been criticized for her colorful clothes, but if you have a figure like that, why not show it? It is difficult to believe that her dimintive body could have such incredible power and stamina, all obvious from these knock-out performances of two of the most difficult concertos in the repertory. The millions of notes are dispatched with the greatest virtuosity, yet no lack of sensitivity. This is an exciting Rachmaninoff Third that doesn't linger excessively. My only disappointment is that the beginning of the march section of the final movement (11:08) is taken so quickly; had it started slower, the cumulative effect would have been even more overwhelming. Wang also commands the mighty Prokofiev Concerto, and her performance is right at the top along with Alexander Gavrylyuk, Evgeny Kissin, Yefim Bronfman and Freddy Kemp, to mention only the best. Wang has the advantage of Dudamel's perfect accompaniment, and what a pleasure it is to hear the rich sounds of the large Venezuelan orchestra playing with virtuosity to match the soloist. Another plus is audio quality of these live recordings made in Caracas February 2013. Some of Dudamel's DGG recordings with the Simon Bolivar Orchestra have been diminished by unclear sound—no problem whatever here. This is a terrific recording in every way!

The commendable Hyperion Romantic Piano Concerto series Volume 62(!) offers music of Charles Gounod for pedal piano. This is a piano with a separate keyboard to be played by the performer's feet (similar to an organ). The lower "keyboard" is used for bass notes but apparently (according to an illustration in Wikipedia) all sounds are produced by the upper keyboard/piano, which is mechanically connected. Music for pedal piano can also be played on two regular pianos with a special apparatus that connects the second keyboard to the second piano..Gounod wrote his pedal piano music for a young lady he was attracted to, Lucie Palicot after hearing her play music for the pedal piano by Charles Valentin Alkan. Why did composers write for the pedal piano? Who knows? Now we have an opportunity to hear Gounod's efforts. A photo in the CD booklet shows two pianos were used, one much lower than the other, and the connecting apparatus can be seen. The only familiar work on this CD is the Russian National Hymn premiered in 1885 with Palicot playing pedal piano and the composer accompanying on a regular piano. It is heard here in an arrangement for pedal piano and orchestra. The other works surely are pleasant but forgettable. Roberto Prosseda is a master of the pedal piano and produces some lovely sounds, with steady accompaniment from the Italian orchestra under pianist-turned-conductor Howard Shelley who has already made more than a dozen recordings in this Hyperion series including many premiere recordings of obscure repertory. Audio is excellent, as always, in this series.

Mark-André Hamelin again shows his technical wizardly and passion for relatively obscure repertory with this superb Hyperion 3-disk set of late piano music of one of the most eccentric of all legendary pianists, Ferruccio Busoni. Seldom does his music find its way onto the concert stage, so we now have this opportunity to hear it in performances that could not be bettered. It's a rather rough trip for most listeners, but the detailed program notes by Marc-André Roberg make the trip much easier. Excellent sound. This joins Hamelin's magnificent recording of the piano concerto (REVIEW) as another definitive statement of Busoni's vision.

Distinguished Australian pianist Piers Lane (b. 1958) has had an extraordinary career winning major competitions and performing in music centers of the world. He has to his credit numerous recordings, mostly for Hyperion, usually venturing into the obscure, as evidenced by his latest disk titled Piers Lane Goes to Town. He obviously has a great sense of humor. Many of these short pieces were composed for Lane by fellow Australians including a dazzling Toccata by Alan Lane, his father. composed before Piers was born. There are many other delightful and often scintillating pieces, all played with total mastery. This is a charming disk in every way, with extensive notes by the pianist.

Walter Gieseking (1895-1958) is a legendary figure among pianists, setting the standard for performances of Debussy and Ravel, as well as Mozart and Beethoven. By a quirk of fate, in 1952 when I was stationed in Japan during the Korean conflict,.I had the opportunity to hear Gieseking play the Brahms Concerto No. 2 with the Tokyo Symphony under a conductor I do not recall. I recall it was a memorable performance. It seems rather odd that this refined pianist, a master of nuance and color, would be so impetuous in live performance: just listen to his 1940 recordings of Rachmaninoff's Concertos . 2 and 3—impassioned music-making by any standards. And surely don't miss Pristine Audio's recent transfer of Debussy Preludes (REVIEW). It seems odd that Gieseking the composer was not more imaginative. Little of his music has been recorded; about a dozen years ago, Nimbus issued a disk of various chamber works. Now we have this Centaur CD of "rediscovered" compositions including lieder, a melodrama for speaker and piano, various chamber works, and for works for solo piano. Surely there is nothing of lasting interest here except as another aspect of one of the world's great pianists. Seven lieder are sung by Oryu Gieseking recorded some lieder with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf; it's unfortunate a singer sheThe 7 lieder sung by Onyu Parks, whose quavery voice does little for the music; Micael Mentzel is much more impressive in the 8 leider assigned to him. The solo piano works add little to the Gieseking legacy. Intriguing, but not of lasting interest.

R.E.B. (November 2013)