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 teenage 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. With the tacking together of two completely different pieces, a nocturne-like cantabile and extroverted digital display are keenly contrasted.
Variations On La Ci Darem La Mano 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 previously recorded Chopin's 24 Etudes to great success.
The German orchestral accompaniment led by fellow Pole Krzysztof Urbanski is by no means perfunctory, adding to a pleasurable hour of easy listening.
Chang Tou Liang
CHOPIN WORKS FOR PIANO & ORCHESTRA
Jan Lisiecki, Piano
NDR Elbphilharmonie/ Krzysztof Urbanski
Deutsche Grammophon 4796824