Variations on Mozart’s ‘Là ci darem la mano’, Op. 2; Fantasia on Polish Airs, Op. 13; Krakowiak, Op. 14; Andante spianato & Grande Polonaise, Op. 22
Piotr Alexewicz (piano); Sinfonia Varsovia/Howard Shelley
NIFC NIFCCD201 64:30 mins
One of the leading young Polish pianists of his generation, Piotr Alexewicz enjoyed a deservedly enthusiastic following at the Chopin Competition in Warsaw this autumn, getting as far as the third stage. Still only 21, he is clearly developing fast as a musician, now bringing the Chopinesque fantasy and sensitivity that were less evident when this recording was made in 2019. All six of Chopin’s works for piano and orchestra are indeed a young man’s music – five were written before the composer left Poland for good, aged only 20 – and by eschewing the well-known concertos and focusing on the less frequently played pieces, Alexewicz’s programme has fresh appeal.
Yet the performances sound slightly too generalised. The style brillante that informs all these works calls not only for the technical brilliance that Alexewicz possesses but a certain joie de vivre in short supply here. Chopin’s tribute to his beloved Mozart in the Variations on ‘Là ci darem’ could do with more sparkling brio, even if the rapid-fire articulation of the second variation (Veloce, ma accuratamente) is exhilarating in its way. Lighter textures in the Fantasy on Polish Airs would also be welcome; both this and the Rondo à la Krakowiak sound a bit proto-Bartókian in places where elegant zest is needed. But even the Andante spianato et Grande Polonaise brillante lacks its ultimate sense of spine-tingling magic, Alexewicz certainly understands the music’s Polish genes.