ALBUM TITLE: Chopin
WORKS: Works for piano and orchestra: Piano Concertos in E minor and F minor; Variations in B flat on Là ci darem; Fantasy on Polish Airs in A, Rondo à la krakowiak; Andante spianato and Grande Polonaise brillante in E flat
PERFORMER: Nelson Goerner, Kevin Kenner, Janusz Olejniczak (piano); Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century/Frans Brüggen; dir Phil Grabsky (Warsaw 2010)
CATALOGUE NO: GVD 921114 (NTSC system; dts 5.1; 16:9 picture format)
Given in Warsaw in late February 2010 on the eve of Chopin’s 200th birthday, this was one of the most memorable concerts in my experience. Revisiting it through this live recording is something I cherish. Happily, it stands up to scrutiny away from the special atmosphere of that occasion. The marathon programme of Chopin’s complete works for piano and orchestra is played on instruments of the composer’s day: it features an Erard piano from 1849, the year of Chopin’s death, in addition to the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century under Frans Brüggen. Together they summon up Chopin’s sound-world and evoke the delicacy for which his performances were renowned.
Three pianists are involved, and all offer worthwhile insights in interview material. The E minor Concerto is in the hands of the American Kevin Kenner, who plays with poetry, virtuosic fluency and a searching quality ideal in this music. The Polish Janusz Olejniczak brings his patrician style to the F minor Concerto, yet is exhilarating in the tumbling folk rhythms of its finale.
But the Argentinian Nelson Goerner is the hero of the concert, bringing superb style to four works that, if anything, are tougher than the concertos. His Fantasy on Polish Airs shows off the piano’s dusky piano tone, both the Krakowiak and Andante spianato et Grande Polonaise have lightness and zest, and he brings sparkling brio to Chopin’s tribute to his beloved Mozart in the Variations on ‘Là ci darem’. Goerner makes the piano sing exquisitely in a Nocturne encore.