For the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frédéric Chopin, the renowned Ruhr Piano Festival in Essen invited the Staatskapelle Berlin to give a truly special program: the rare combination of Chopin‘s two piano concertos in one concert. For this purpose Daniel Barenboim, the orchestra‘s principal conductor, handed over the reins of „his“ ensemble to up-and-coming young conductor Andris Nelsons, assuming the role of piano soloist instead. The press raved: „Storms of applause for a dream couple: Daniel Barenboim and Andris Nelsons won over the audience […] with their rousing Chopin interpretations“.
The Grammy award-winning pianist Daniel Barenboim, long known for his Mozart interpretations, turns his attention to Mozart's last 8 piano concertos. The music of Mozart has quite literally been an essential driving force of Daniel Barenboim’s entire life. It remains central to his performing career both as a pianist and as a conductor. These illuminating performances of Mozart’s last eight great piano concertos admirably demonstrate Barenboim’s dictum that even when a true musician has already performed a familiar work hundreds of times, he or she ‘never accepts that the next note will be played the same way as it was played before.’
EMI invited Daniel Barenboim to record the complete series, with the English Chamber Orchestra, as conductor and soloist. The recordings were made at London's Abbey Road Studios between 1967 and 1974.
Chopin's two piano concertos have long been admired more as pianistic vehicles than as integrated works for piano and orchestra. But in his revelatory new recording, Krystian Zimerman suggests otherwise: The opening orchestral tuttis have so much more light, shade, orchestral color, and detail, you wonder if they've been rewritten. Every gesture, every instrumental solo is so specifically characterized that by the time the piano makes a dramatic entrance, the pieces have become operas without words.
It was an eminently sensible decision to couple Zimerman's previously separate Chopin concertos on a single CD. The Ax/Ormandy/RCA disc is the only rival as a coupling, so let me say at once that in different moods I would be equally happy with either. The main difference, I think, is the actual sound. From DG we get a closer, riper sonority, with Zimerman's piano much more forwardly placed. Both orchestra and piano are more distanced on the RCA recording, especially Ax's piano. This, together with Ax's lighter, more translucent semiquaver figuration (and sometimes his greater willingness to stand back and merely accompany—as in certain episodes in the F minor Concerto's finale) often conjures up visions of Chopin himself at the keyboard, and we know he was often criticized for insufficiently strong projection.
Award-winning pianist Ingrid Fliter makes her Linn debut with a distinctive performance of Chopin’s notoriously difficult piano concertos, featuring the Scottish Chamber Orchestra conducted by Jun Märkl. Since winning the silver medal at the 2000 Frederic Chopin Competition in Warsaw, Ingrid has built a reputation as a first-rate Chopin interpreter.
Warner Classics has issued this splendid three disc boxed set of eight Franz Liszt scores. It fetaures Daniel Barenboim as both piano soloist and conductor… This fine selection could not have a finer advocate than Daniel Barenboim; a true giant in the classical music world today. A brilliant performer at the piano and a conductor of great renown this man lives for music. - Michael Cookson; MusicWeb-International
Noel Mewton-Wood’s (1922-53) journey from underestimated virtuoso to present-day icon is cause for both celebration and irony. Glowing testimonials to his ‘genius’ (Sir Malcolm Sargent) from Myra Hess, Beecham, Schnabel, Bliss, Hindemith and Britten were countered by indifference from the major record labels and concert managements, a situation that doubtless contributed to his suicide at the age of 31. Behind an ebullient surface, Mewton-Wood was a romantic idealist, susceptible to depression and mood-swings. So it is hardly surprising to find the dichotomy reflected in performances which alternate a luminous poetic delicacy with a rare energy and bravura. [[i]Bryce Morrison, Gramophone, November 2003
The disc is EMI's budget CD, but the performances included here are of highest quality. In fact I've never come across any performances that come so close to Chopin's ideal - the fragile beauty, the shimmering tone colours, the noble poetry and the heart-felt intimacy of Barenboim's playing reminds me of what Chopin's contemporaries described of his pianism. I've got dozens of CDs of 24 Preludes, but this is the one I always come back to for its radiant beauty that only comes from a self-effacing, sincere heart.
Martha Argerich has few peers in this repertoire today, and in terms of sheer spontaneity in performance she's simply in a class of her own. Chopin's concertos are early works, and they always have taken their share of abuse owing to the composer's somewhat clunky orchestration. Of course, no one ever has had anything to say against the piano part, which is marvelous and which dominates the proceedings to the point where the orchestra is pretty irrelevant anyway. What makes these performances so special is that Dutoit not only stays in the background, where he belongs, but actually manages to offer the kind of intimate support that allows Argerich to literally do whatever she wants. (David Hurwitz, classicstoday.com)