CHOPIN Works for Piano & Orchestra
JAN LISIECKI, Piano
NDR Elbphilharmonie / Krzysztof Urbanski
Deutsche Grammophon 479 6824 / *****1/2
The two piano concertos of Frederic Chopin (1810-1849), while very popular, have been over-recorded. It is thus a welcome change to hear the other four of the Polish pianist-composer's works for piano and orchestra. Composed during his teenaged years and early-20s, these were conceived as showpieces for a rising virtuoso.
The best-known is the Andante Spianato & Grande Polonaise Brillante (Op.22), often heard as a solo work. Tacking together two completely different pieces, a nocturne-like cantabile and extroverted digital display are keenly contrasted.
Variations On La Ci Darem From Mozart’s Don Giovanni (Op.2) is heard on occasion. A work so inventive and scintillating, Robert Schumann hailed, “Hats off, a genius!” after hearing it for the first time. The true rarities are the Krakowiak (Op.14), a fast Polish folk-dance and Fantasy on Polish Airs (Op.13), with Chopin's nationalism proudly worn like a badge during his touring years.
These receive marvellous performances filled with insight and vitality by young Polish-Canadian pianist Jan Lisiecki, who had previously recorded Chopin's 24 Études to great success. The German orchestral accompaniment led by fellow Pole Krzsztof Urbanski is by no means perfunctory, adding to a pleasurable hour of easy listening.