Lazar Berman, a bear of a man whom The Times of London called ‘one of the last unabashed exponents of the Romantic tradition of Russian pianism’, was known for the power of his playing and for his prodigious technique but was also capable of great delicacy at the keyboard. The core of his repertoire was the great Romantic and post-Romantic works, from Beethoven to Prokofiev and Shostakovich. Emil Gilels referred to him as a ‘phenomenon of the musical world’. Eloquence presents his complete Deutsche Grammophon recordings over five titles.
For Lazar Berman, a true pianist of the ‘old school’, the music of Prokofiev and Shostakovich were as far as he ventured into the twentieth century, but Prokofiev’s Eighth Sonata was, with Rachmaninov’s ‘Moments musicaux’, his first solo recording for Deutsche Grammophon in 1975. Prokofiev’s suite for ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is comprised of ten pieces in all. On his recording, Berman omitted the first of these (Folk Dance). From tenderness to thunder, Berman impresses with the sheer weight of his conception as well as his insight into this music. The Shostakovich Prelude provided the coupling for his recording of Mussorgsky’s ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’.
Piano Sonata No. 2 in D minor, Op. 14*
Piano Sonata No. 8 in B flat major, Op. 84*
Romeo and Juliet, Op. 75: Nine piano pieces
Preludes, Op. 34 (selection)*
Lazar Berman, piano
*FIRST RELEASE ON CD
Recording Producer: Werner Mayer
Balance Engineers: Günter Hermanns (Piano Sonata No. 2, Romeo and Juliet); Wolfgang Mitlehner (Piano Sonata No. 8); Günter Hermanns, Hans-Peter Schweigmann (Shostakovich)
Recording Locations: Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, Germany, November 1975 (Piano Sonata No. 8); Alter Herkulessaal, Munich, Germany, June 1978 (Piano Sonata No. 2, Romeo and Juliet, Shostakovich)
‘one is awestruck by Berman’s monumental pianism. His touch is alternately light and tender and then thundering as the needs of the music vary … He seems to instil more insight into the performance of this music than do orchestras, something that seems impossible.’ (Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet) Fanfare
‘The Allegro and Andante movements seem almost neo-Romantic in his hands and yet are not distorted. The final Vivace becomes a real tour de force that leaves one breathless’ (Prokofiev: Sonata No. 2) Fanfare
‘I warm to this [version] in particular for the way Berman seeks out the freshness of colour and the lyricism … His refusal to gabble the quick movements or to ginger them up with an excess of virtuoso agitation, as so many pianists do, is indeed refreshing. I need hardly add that his performance is nothing if not a virtuoso one all the same.’ (Prokofiev: Sonata No. 2) Gramophone