When he recorded Liszt under Papa Kantorow, I had the feeling that he should let his son apply more liberties. Now he has taken them. And I say "WOW"!
In the Agosti-Transcription of the Firebird (Danse Infernal, Berceuse, Finale) a pianistic firework without peer is sounding. It is not only the dexterity that is fascinating, but the art of making the sound. When you hear the transparency and the different parts that he plays, one cannot help but wondering: does he really play alone? Not even in Achilleas Wastors version for 4 hands does one get such a richness of sound.
But Kantorow is not only a virtuoso, but also a musician, who can understand and create. Rachmaninov's First Sonata Op. 28, which was composed between 1907 and 1908, is almost 40 minutes long and demands a structural thinking, experience how to present a programme (Rachmaninov has taken inspiration from Goethe's Faust), and in this particular case with the differentiation between motifs, since Rachmaninov here describes three different persons, Faust, Mephisto and Gretchen. The first movement is all about Faust, and Kantorow manages the pondering, the "schizofrenic", as intensely as the Auerbach's Basement and the With Kitchen.
In the slow movement (Gretchen) he creates pure poetry as if he were born thusly, but without exaggerated pathos or sweetness.
The Mephisto movement is packed full with contrasts and drama, played fascinatingly rhythmically, facinating because the pianist doesn't try to show off, but plays it so differentially and thereby renders the movement much more musical than one is accustomed to hear it.
Also Tchaikovsky's Méditation and Passé lointain show off the sound and musicmaking possibilities of the 20-year old pianist (RvB: well, ahem, 18...)
And so we can ascertain that Kantorow is no mere technician, but a pianist, who can dig deep down into the music and create results with spontaneity and deep feelings. He is a pianist, who, much farther than mere technique, has found the music.
Tchaikovsky's Scherzo à la russe shows off the almost-genius colouring possibilities of Kantorow, and everything comes to a zenith with Balakirev's Islamey, a piece that many pianists degrade into a virtuosic showpiece, since they just hammer away at it. Kantorow, on the other hand, is interested in the subtitle "An Oriental Fantasy" and plays the composition as such, differentiatedly, lively, and colourfully. This way he brings forward nuances, feelings and moods that only a very few pianists have succeeded with before, and the whole piece evolves with tension and relaxation, between frenetic cascades of firework and tender sound fragrancies. It is an interpretation with unstoppable pleasure of playing and the yearn for the fantastic.
"(..) The magic kicks in. From the start we are captivated by the
spellbinding sound, the delicacy of the piano voicings, how the singer gives
in when she performs the love songs. The album is colored with melancholy
and Paul Lay's music has the grace of the clouds.
- Bruno Pfeiffer, Libération
"(..) In the end, the combination of these two projects is evidence of the pianist's stature - he has proven to be a major performer and composer of his