Chopin: Piano Concertos Nos 1 & 2

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COMPOSERS: Chopin
LABELS: chopin,review
ALBUM TITLE: Chopin: Piano Concertos Nos 1 & 2
WORKS: Works by Chopin
PERFORMER: Ingrid Fliter (piano); Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Jun Markl
CATALOGUE NO: CD 455

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Ingrid Fliter has built her reputation to a significant extent on Chopin and Beethoven. Turning to the two early Piano Concertos, inaugurating a new partnership with Linn, she reveals the qualities that have distinguished her earlier Chopin recordings for EMI: her projection of line, so important in these works, her luminous tone, her assured yet unshowy bravura. The outer movements of both Concertos have an authoritative confidence and are often coloured with beautifully judged dynamic shading, while the slow movements, especially of No. 2, are beautifully poised and poetic. In his engaging notes, Michael Quinn refers to these works as sounding like opera without the singers, and Fliter’s bold cantilenas reinforce this.

What I occasionally miss is the sort of rhythmic buoyancy that makes Martha Argerich’s EMI recording with Charles Dutoit so memorable. In the first movement coda of No. 1, for example, Argerich makes the piano writing dance and sparkle; for all her pinpoint articulation, Fliter doesn’t quite bring the same life-affirming joy to passages like this. Another issue is the balance: the general sound is excellent, but the piano is placed very far forward, unnaturally so I think. As well as underplaying the refined detailing from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, this at times adds a hard edge to Fliter’s tone. She never sounds aggressive, but when she rises above mezzo forte her tone can feel overly insistent and really needs more room to breathe.

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Tim Parry