Tchaikovsky – Piano Concerto No. 1

Release Date: 03 March 1986

Label: Deutsche Grammophon

Other artists: Claudio Abbado / London Symphony Orchestra

Producers: Hanno Rinke / Rainer Brock

Recording place: Watford Town Hall, Watford

Total playing time: LP / CD [37:45]

Copyright: © 1986 Deutsche Grammophon


03 March 1986

Ivo Pogorelich was a student at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow, so when I asked him when he had first played the Concerto in B flat minor I expected a totally different answer from the one I got. “My teachers told me that my hands were exactly right for the concerto, all my friends played it – but I didn’t”, he said with a laugh. “I didn’t want to. You could hear it being hammered out by every other student; I had an overdose of this music – I’d virtually been brought up on it.” He pondered. “I first heard the B flat minor Concerto on the radio when I was five. At that time I was thrilled by the way the piano sang and swelled with sound. Soon afterwards I heard it at a concert – an overwhelming impression. But then my experiences as a student gradually turned me against the Concerto. All I could hear was a virtuoso piece for up-and-coming pianists, a test of finger dexterity – not art.
At last, when I was 18, I began to study the concerto myself – and to rediscover it. It certainly isn’t the stale, self-satisfied jangle of notes which had so got on my nerves as the practice piece of my fellow students! I had thought that this concerto reduced all pianists to a common denominator, whether they were young or old, Russian or American.
I’d been wrong. It was all those up-and-coming pianists around me who had been reducing the concerto to a common denominator, subjecting Tchaikovsky to the circus act of their interpretation. Now I realized that wasn’t what he’d had in mind. It became my purpose to show that Tchaikovsky had written a genuine dialogue between piano and orchestra. What it needs is partnership, not ostentatious cascades of sound with humble orchestral accompaniment. It is true that you have to toil like a galley slave to master the technical difficulties of the piano part. But it is after that that the real work begins; you have to get into the frame of mind in which Tchaikovsky wrote this work to discover its secrets. Above all the pianist must not seek merely to dazzle, but must allow complete equality to the orchestra; when a theme is taken up by the woodwind, or the lower strings reveal structural features of the music, they must really be audible – the concerto must not be swamped by the flood of sound poured out by the pianist.
I am glad that Claudio Abbado and the orchestra fully shared my view in this matter, and that every instrumentalist gave of his best. Mere routine would be especially dangerous in the case of this work.
On the day before we began recording the concerto we performed it in concert, and then we tried to bring the same live quality to our playing in the studio. Only without evening dress.”

© Hanno Rinke / Deutsche Grammophon