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Strangely, this product headlines Zubin Mehta, yet is in fact all about the Pekinel sisters, both with orchestra (Bartók’s Concerto for Two Pianos) and in recital. Those who prefer not to be distracted by visuals can find shelter in the compact disc versions of one hour of the music (Bartók, Schubert’s F minor Fantasy, Debussy En Blanc et Noir and Brahms’ fifth Hungarian Dance), though the Pekinels really are fascinating to watch. For the two-piano pieces in the Ludwigsberg recital, the sisters sit with one piano in front of the other, a testament to their alleged telepathic connection. Certainly, their ensemble in the Mozart is excellent; moreover, they capture the D major energy of the sonata’s first movement perfectly (although those weaned on Justus Franz and Christoph Eschenbach on DG might find the male pair just a touch wittier). The Schubert actually sounds lovely and warm, with tender turns of phrase. It is a very different reading from Fleisher/Jacobson (see review, page 81), beautifully tender and affectionate. Unfortunately the sudden video shots of the hammers can be off-putting.

Of all the composers in this programme, it is Debussy who demands the most sensitivity, and the Pekinels deliver the perfect textural blend. If Manuel Infante’s ‘Sentimento’ (from Danses Andalouses) and Poulenc’s Élégie (en accords alternés) provide huge contrasts (the former gestural, the latter tissue-delicate), it is the stunning, sparkling Lutosławski Paganini Variations that is the real treat here. Only Milhaud’s Scaramouche (final movement) vies with it in terms of sheer joie de vivre. Overall, a most stimulating release.

COLIN CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica

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