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Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No 1

Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No 3

Martha Argerich (piano)

Bavarian RSO / Kirill Kondrashin

RSO Berlin / Riccardo Chailly

(Recorded 1980 and 1982)

(Philips 446 673-2)

Argerich and Kondrashin skateboard through Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto as if there were no tomorrow, each goading the other with dramatic varieties of executive dynamism. And yet there's tenderness to spare, especially in the main body of the first movement and the Andantino simplice's outer sections. The cadenza, though, is manic and the prestissimo section of the second movement, astonishingly fleet-fingered. It's a lean, hot-blooded and intuitively well-aimed performance, whereas the Rachmaninov Third - a long-awaited first release - raises a storm but misses its mark.

True, Argerich projects "that inimitable touch of wildness" (to quote Bryce Morrison's eloquent booklet notes), but too often she seems fazed by the denseness of the writing, dazzling us with hectic note-flurries while failing to focus their musical shape. A shame, because Riccardo Chailly lends a particularly sensitive accompaniment, especially in the Adagio's introduction and the shimmering string passage that leads into the cadenza. However, Argerich herself appears either restless or over- zealous, rather like a newly-won religious convert whose "passion" is more a well-intentioned affectation than a symptom of true faith. Colour is legion and keyboard rage the order of the day, but excitability yields diminishing returns - and this is definitely a short-term thrill.

Elgar: Cello Concerto; Cockaigne; Wand of Youth (Suites Nos 1 & 2); Elegy

Anthony Pini (cello)

London Philharmonic / Eduard van Beinum

(Recorded: 1949-1950)

(Beulah 2PD15) A minute or so spent in the company of Eduard van Beinum's Cockaigne is enough to lift anyone's spirits. The pace is so fast, the playing full of newsreel-style excitement and the conducting as characterful as Beecham's and as bracing as Elgar's own. Just listen to the crisply articulated woodwinds, the sharp-edged attack of the brass or the wistful but never cloying strings.

Van Beinum was the Concertgebouw's most distinguished regular maestro after Mengelberg and before Haitink: a compassionate disciplinarian who could scale Brucknerian heights or bring sunlight to Mendelssohn and Schubert. He even spent two seasons with the LPO, and when you consider that this was by no means the orchestra's best period, his achievement here seems doubly remarkable.

Anthony Pini's account of the Cello Concerto has dignity, strength and natural reserve: the first movement is outgoing and proud; the Scherzo vigorous, if fairly bland; the Adagio quietly confessional; and the finale, with its sudden rushes of melancholy, eloquent beyond words. As to the Wand of Youth, both suites are superbly done and there's some breathtaking virtuosity in "The Wild Bears". The recordings (some from original tapes, others from shellac pressings) are variable. But, that apart, this is an absolute winner.