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Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Op 11 (1830) [37:23]
Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op 21 (1829) [31:00]
Hans Richter-Haaser (piano: 1)
Nikita Magaloff (piano: 2)
rec. April 1961 (No.1) and October 1951 (No.2) Hans-Rosbaud-Studio
SWR CLASSIC SWR19076CD [68:46]

Rosbaud-directed material from the archives of SWR has begun to approach factory levels of production. In addition to composer-orientated boxes, single discs play their part, as this Chopin concerto disc demonstrates. It introduces two pianists who may not ordinarily be thought of as exponents of the repertoire but who both acquit themselves with restrained virtuosity and eloquent control.

The earlier recording is that of the F minor with Nikita Magaloff. Taped in 1951, it reveals Magaloff as a patrician exponent of the repertoire. He did perform a slew of Chopin’s works, but was best known as an accompanist - famously for Szigeti - and chamber player, so it’s valuable to hear him in this broadcast. He was nearing 40 at the time and in prime technical form and Rosbaud delivers a strongly argued but in no way pathos-drenched reading; his musicianship was far too perceptively objective for that. The orchestral introduction is strongly characterised, the tight bright trumpets puncturing but not destabilising the texture. Magaloff’s clarity of articulation in the slow movement and confident projection in the finale are alike admirable.

Hans Richter-Haaser was an exact contemporary of Magaloff but died much earlier. Adept in the classical and early Romantic repertoires he is captured in fine 1961 sound in the companion E minor Concerto. Where Richter-Haaser is fluent and imaginative Rosbaud again provides sympathetic support, ensuring that the wind lines in the Larghetto shadow appositely. The pointing here is just as fine as the soloist’s delicately painterly pianism. Rhythms are well sprung, once again, in the finale.

Neither pianist was an expressively extrovert exponent of the Romantic school. Both preferred smaller-scaled but highly astute approaches that repay listening. Rosbaud’s direction is similarly patrician in a sense, refusing to concern itself in detail at the expense of the structural integrity of the music. The 1961 sound is certainly more attractive than that of a decade earlier but both are very listenable. With good notes and sound restorations this is one for piano collectors and possibly also for Rosbaud’s many adherents.

Jonathan Woolf

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