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Frédéric CHOPIN (1809-1849)

Complete Works for Piano and Orchestra
CD 1
Krakowiak, Op.14 (1828) [13:59]
Fantasy on Polish Airs, Op.13 (1828) [15:09]
Piano Concerto No.1 in E Minor, Op.11 (1830) [42:40]
CD 2
Grande Polonaise Brillante, Op.22 (1834) [15:51]
Variations on La Ci Darem La Mano, Op.2 (1827) [18:04]
Piano Concerto No.2 in F Minor, Op.21 (1829) [35:07]
Kun-Woo Paik (piano)
Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra/Antoni Wit
rec. Philharmonic Hall, Warsaw, 7-12 June 2003. DDD
2 CDs for the price of one
DECCA 4751692 [71:48 + 70:02]

Chopin is best loved for his solo piano music however there have always been question marks over the orchestration in his concertos.
 
In the first concerto, which was in fact the second to be composed, both soloist and orchestra deliver a first rate performance. My only concern is that I kept on being reminded of Rachmaninov. As this work was composed c.1830, it should not really be treated as an early 20th century piece. Nevertheless, the slow movement is one of the most moving in the piano concerto repertoire and was written by Chopin after a timorously undeclared passion for a young Polish soprano. It is played with real sympathy and feeling, quite marvellous, and does not overdo the sentimentality. The finale is witty and jaunty though it lacks the amount of fun captured in other versions.
 
Chopin’s second concerto is lighter and more piano dominated. Here the soloist Kun-Woo Paik sounds happier and more involved than in the first concerto. My standard for this piece would be that performed by Vladimir Ashkenazy from over thirty years ago; Kun-Woo Paik matches that performance. Excellent.
 
The other less often played/known pieces on this disc are given equally polished performances. In the “Grande Polonaise” I was particularly impressed with the soloist’s interpretation and his playing of the more introspective parts. Chopin came to fame with the relatively unknown masterpiece Variations on Mozart’s duet “La Ci Darem La Mano” from Don Giovanni. If you are unfamiliar with this piece you will find Kun-Woo Paik is simply splendid. I really enjoyed this performance and will certainly return to it first among these well filled discs.
 
This set appears to have been recorded nearly three years ago and brings together the popular and the rare. Despite the earlier noted reservation, this is generally a very good selection and performance of ‘orchestral’ Chopin. Perhaps if it had been given a well deserved release some years earlier, the pianist might look a little less depressed on the cover!
 
David R Dunsmore

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