Chopin: Complete Works For Piano & Orchestra Volume 2

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COMPOSERS: Chopin
LABELS: Dux
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor; Variations in B flat on ‘Là ci darem la mano’ from Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Op. 2; Andante spianato and Grande Polonaise Brilliante, Op. 22
PERFORMER: Tatiana Shebanova (piano); Polish Sinfonia Iuventus Orchestra/Marcin Nalecz-Niesiolowski
CATALOGUE NO: DUX 0742

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A prize-winner at the 1980 Chopin International Piano Competition in Warsaw, the Russian Tatiana Shebanova has since become domiciled in Poland, with Chopin occupying a central place in her career.

Following her recent DUX collection of the complete Chopin works for solo piano, she has now recorded all six of his works for piano and orchestra and once again shows herself to be a fine interpreter of the composer. Her touch always makes one aware of the music’s bel canto aspect, her playing is rhythmically taut and crisp, and she commands a wide range of pianistic colour.

All her performances here with the Polish Sinfonia Iuventus Orchestra – a recently formed band made up of some of the country’s best players under 30 – adopt slightly broader tempos than average, emphasising the music’s poetry and grace. But in such a crowded field as the concertos, her performances hardly stand out.

The E minor Concerto No. 1, which rounds off the first volume, is the more memorable of the two, especially for the way in which she and this disc’s conductor, Tadeusz Wojciechowski, bring freedom and playfulness to the finale. On the second volume, the F minor Concerto No. 2 gets a convincing enough account under the baton of Marcin Na√ecz-Niesio√owski, but is a little lacking in the élan that distinguishes the best performances.

Adding to the attractions of the first volume is a light and airy performance of the Fantasy on Polish Airs; the Rondo à la Krakowiak, one of the harder of these pieces to bring off, is appealing, too. The Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brilliante is decently done, but Shebanova is less compelling in the Variations on ‘Là ci darem’, Chopin’s beguiling tribute to his beloved Mozart.

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The piano’s full statement of the theme is hardly seductive enough, and the orchestra could play with more sparkling brio. John Allison