Music review: Pianist Jan Lisiecki plays Chopin with insight and vitality

 Chopin: Works For Piano & Orchestra by Jan Lisiecki (piano). PHOTO: DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON
Chopin: Works For Piano & Orchestra by Jan Lisiecki (piano). PHOTO: DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON

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



    Jan Lisiecki, Piano

    NDR Elbphilharmonie/ Krzysztof Urbanski

    Deutsche Grammophon 4796824

    4.5/5 stars

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 19, 2017, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe