Piano Concerto in A minor; Danses polonaises
Dang Thai Son (piano); Philharmonia Orchestra/Vladimir Ashkenazy
Fryderyk Chopin Institute 051
The centenary of Polish independence, which propelled Ignacy Jan Paderewski into highest political office, is inspiring something of a retrospective of his music. Polish National Opera will be putting on a major staging
in the autumn of his only opera, Manru, and Warsaw’s Fryderyk Chopin Institute has just added this invaluable release to the Paderewski discography. Dang Thai Son’s recording of the Piano Concerto comes hot on the heels of an excellent performance by Jonathan Plowright (for Warner; reviewed February 2018), yet this newest one deserves to top any list of recommendations for this powerfully appealing work. Dang brings an ideal mix of poetry and brilliance – qualities which won him the 1980 Chopin Competition – to this live performance from the Chopin and his Europe Festival in Warsaw, supported at every turn by sophisticated playing from the Philharmonia under Vladimir Ashkenazy.
But what makes this release truly special are the solo piano pieces too often mistakenly relegated to salon music. Paderewski is loftier than that, and nothing better illustrates this outstanding Vietnamese Canadian pianist’s feeling for his style than the opening Mélodie Op. 16, with its Chopinesque cantilena. Sometimes small works are the real test of great pianism.