Pianist Wang Xiaying tackles Tchaikovsky and Khachaturian

Coupled for the first time are perhaps the two most unfashionable and maligned Russian-school piano concertos ever composed.

Tchaikovsky's Second Piano Concerto In G Major (1882) has never replicated the success or popularity of its forerunner. Although it is extremely tuneful, casting it in the major mode often equates the music with a lack of pathos, not to mention gravitas.

Its very long first movement cadenza is problematic for pianists. The slow second movement is in effect a glorified piano trio while the finale is a slight and comedic dance (complete with chuckles that might have inspired Woody Woodpecker) more associated with Saint-Saens.

The Armenian Aram Khachaturian's Piano Concerto In D Flat Major (1937) is unabashedly populist and low-brow, using folk-flavoured melodies and razzle-dazzle pianistic effects to mask its inadequacies. Its slow movement, however, employs the flexatone, which produces a high-pitched wheezy tone when vibrated, to famous effect.




    Xiayin Wang, Piano

    Royal Scottish National Orchestra

    Peter Oundjian, Conductor

    Chandos 5167

    4.5/5 stars

Both concertos have had champions among the great pianists in the past - Cherkassky and Gilels in Tchaikovsky, Kapell and Lympany in Khachaturian. Young Chinese pianist Wang Xiayin holds her own in these incisive and energetic, no-holds-barred performances, which are boosted with superior recorded orchestral sound.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2016, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe