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.
“Lazar Berman's Prokofiev has a penetrating focus and crisp articulation, The Russian pianist's Romeo and Juliet pieces are superbly characterised and the playing is beautifully delicate.” BBC Music Magazine
“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.” Gramophone (Prokofiev: Sonata No. 2)