Winner of the 2009 Van Cliburn competition, Haochen Zhang is no stranger to a challenge. On this début concerto disc he proves this once more, boldly jumping in at the deep end as he takes on Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2. The demands posed by Prokofiev’s concerto are famous, starting with a huge cadenza already in the first movement. This may explain why the concerto was for a long time relatively unknown and, unlike the First and Third Piano Concertos, has only recently taken its rightful place in the repertory.
The work was premièred by the composer himself in 1913, shocking the audience with its modernistic sounds and jagged rhythms. But even though Prokofiev was happy to nurture a reputation for bad-boy modernism, there is also a rich seam of Russian tradition which underlie his music from the beginning to the end of his career. It is therefore fitting that Haochen Zhang has chosen to complete the disc with one of the best-loved concertos from that tradition: Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto in B flat minor. In both works, Zhang is supported by the Lahti Symphony Orchestra under the baton of its principal conductor, Dima Slobodeniouk.