Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and Nocturnes performed by Christopher Warren-Green

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COMPOSERS: Chopin
LABELS: Narodowy Instytut Fryderyk Chopina
ALBUM TITLE: Chopin
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 2; Nocturnes
PERFORMER: Maria João Pires (piano); Sinfonia Varsovia/Christopher Warren-Green
CATALOGUE NO: NIFCCD 040

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Maria João Pires’s Chopin discography, though extending to the waltzes and late works including the Cello Sonata, has largely been focused on the concertos and nocturnes. So what new things does she have to say here, especially when many hold her prizewinning recordings – in particular, of the complete nocturnes – to be definitive? What new light can the Sinfonia Varsovia, which must have recorded Chopin’s concertos more than any other orchestra, shed on this music? The answer to both these questions is: quite a lot. In a performance notable for its deep beauty of the Concerto in F minor, Pires ensures that the lyrical Larghetto forms the true heart of the work; full of bel canto flexibility, her playing is dazzling in the runs and decorations. She leads the attack in the dancing finale with assertive playing in which she is supported all the way by the orchestra under the conductor Christopher Warren-Green.

Likewise, the seven nocturnes included here are hauntingly poignant but never sentimental, and exude an elegant dignity that can only come through musical maturity. Most of them – but above all the Nocturne in B minor, Op. 9 No. 3 – sound strikingly shyer than on her complete DG set, released 20 years ago. No one will want to be without that or indeed any number of established versions of the concerto, yet these live recordings from the 2010 and 2014 editions of the Chopin and his Europe festival in Warsaw must be considered essential listening for anyone interested in Chopin interpretation.

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John Allison