Chopin, Piano Concertos No. 1 and 2, performed by pianist Sa Chen and the Gulbenkian Orchestra Lisbon, Lawrence Foster, conductor (Pentatone Classics). Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra followers will remember Sa Chen from a year ago. In October 2007, she joined the orchestra for an unusual work, a piano concerto by Clara Schumann. Chen looks about 12 on her album cover here, but she's 29. She is a promising pianist.
Polonaise: almost always, as soon as the word is uttered, it conjures up the name of Frédéric Chopin. And what could be more natural with a creative genius who was constantly attracted to the genre? His first work, published in Warsaw, was entitled `Polonaise for pianoforte dedicated to her Excellency the Countess Victoire Skarbek by Friderik Chopin, aged eight years'; and right up to the concluding Polonaise-Fantaisie, Op.61, fourteen other similar compositions had punctuated the all-too-brief career of the Polish maestro.
Frédéric Chopin's music is closely associated with the piano and as a matter of fact most of his music is written for this instrument. French harpist Coline-Marie Orliac did not want to miss playing Chopin?s inspiring music and took the audacious task to transcribe it for harp. Among Chopin's signature works is her arrangement of the Ballade op. 23 No. 1, displaying to the listener her breathtaking virtuosity while always adding a fresh and more transparent sound to Chopin's music.
The pianist on this CD, Yulliana Avdeeva, is the winner of the Chopin piano competition in 2010. Checking the internet, you will find that the decision by the jury was controversial. Her playing was considered not to display the proper Chopin style, and too cool. I wasn't present at the competition, so I cannot write much about this. But having bought this CD, mainly because of use of old instruments, and the direction by the recently deceased icon of old music Frans Brüggen, I must say that I was totally blown away by the playing of Yulianna Avdeeva.
For while it would be idle to pretend that this 70-year-old virtuoso, struck down at the height of his career with psoriatic arthritis, still commands the velocity and reflex of his earlier years, his later Chopin and Liszt are a tribute to a devotion and commitment gloriously enriched by experience. The First Impromptu is piquantly voiced and phrased while the C sharp minor Etude, Op. 25 No. 7, could hardly be more hauntingly confided, more ‘blue’ or inturned. How you miss the repeat in the C sharp minor Mazurka, Op. 50 No. 3 (not Op. 15, as the jewel-case claims), given such cloudy introspection and if there are moments when you recall how Rubinstein – forever Chopin’s most aristocratic spokesman – can convey a world of feeling in a scarcely perceptible gesture, Janis’s brooding intensity represents a wholly personal, only occasionally overbearing, alternative; an entirely different point of view. Time and again he tells us that there are higher goods than surface polish or slickness and in the valedictory F minor Mazurka, Op. 68 No. 4 he conveys a dark night of the soul indeed, an emotion almost too desolating for public utterance… Janis is no less remarkable in Liszt, whether in the brief but intriguing Sans mesure (a first performance and recording), in a Sonetto 104 del Petrarca as tear-laden as any on record and in a final Liebestod of an exhausting ardour and focus.
Multi-award-winning composer Paul Reale has a distinctly American voice, enriched and given touches of familiarity through references to folk idiom and musical ancestors such as Bartók and Kodály. This program brings together Reale’s works for cello and piano. His earliest, Séance, is a haunting combination of modernist sounds and Baroque melodies. The operatic Cello Sonata No. 1 daringly uses What Shall We Do with the Drunken Sailor as the backbone of its finale, and the recent Chopin’s Ghosts explores the Romantic composer’s long, weaving lines and evokes his poetic spirit.