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Chopin, Fryderyk: Chopin: Piano Concertos Nos. 1

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (Feb. 1 1997)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: BIS
  • ASIN: B0000264QJ
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  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #296,189 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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1. I. Allegro Maestoso
2. II. Romance: Larghetto
3. III. Rondo: Vivace
4. I. Maestoso
5. II. Larghetto
6. III. Allegro Vivace

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Amazon.com: HASH(0x9bbe5b88) out of 5 stars 1 review
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9c824ee8) out of 5 stars The piano and strings have a robust and rich sound. This chamber version will make you a "convert" to these piano concerti. April 15 2016
By Tom Brody - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
CHOPIN PIANO CONCERTO No. 1 in E minor (38 min., 56 sec.) and PIANO CONCERTO No. 2 in F minor (32 min., 12 sec.) was recorded by Fumiko Shiraga on piano, accompanied by The Yggdrasil Quartet and Jan-Inge Jaukas on double bass. Yggdrasil Quartet hails from Sweden. The recording was made in December 1996 in the Thurmersaal, Bochum, Germany. The sound of the piano is robust and rich, and not encumbered by echoes or muddiness. The sound from the strings is always strong and confident and, when needed, is able to overpower the piano.

I mention this because in one of Ms. Shiraga's other recordings, the chamber versions of the Mendelssohn piano concertos on the CLAVES RECORDS label, the string section is whimpy and weak, and is not up to the task of managing the dramatic orchestral melodic swoops that are provided in full-orchestra versions of the Mendelssohn piano concertos. To summarize, the sound engineering on Ms. Shiraga's chamber versions of the Chopin piano concerti is absolutely perfect.

CONCERTO No. 1. ALLEGRO MAESTROSO begins with a distinctive stomping motif followed by a delicate episode beginning at 50 seconds. The stomping motif is repeated at 85 seconds and again followed by delicateness. At two min, 20 sec, and again at 6 min 29 sec, 7 min 10 sec, and 16 min 10 sec, comes a lovely melody with pop-sensibilities, resembling one of the pop-song melodies found in Chopin's NOCTURNES (see my review of Pollini's recording of the Nocturnes). The stomping motif returns at 2 min 40 sec and at 2 min 58 sec. At 4 minutes and again at 5 minutes and 50 seconds, comes a splashy descending arpeggio from the piano, and at 5 min comes an extended motif resembling the swelling motions of an ocean. At 11 min 30 sec and also at 12 minutes comes a scampering Lisztian motif. The stomping motif is then repeated but in a restrained manner. Allegro maestoso ends with an extended rousing fanfare.

ROMANCE LARGHETTO begins quietly and slowly with gradually increasing volume, reaching a climax at 3 min 20 sec. We hear a little pop-tune, which occurs at 1 min 50 sec, 2 min 20 sec, and at 3 minutes, where the piano provides a little exploratory nuance, followed by the same exploratory nuance, and concluding with a tinkling descending arpeggio. That is my description of the pop-tune.

A thunderous episode arrives at about 5 min, which at the 6-minute time point, is replaced with the same pop tune. The pop tune is repeated at 6 minutes and 30 seconds.

RONDO VIVACE provides a wake-up call, where the listener is treated to a tune resembling that which might be found in a Chopin Mazurka. Another distinctive motif makes its appearance at the 3-minute mark, which sounds like a bird call. The key changes at 5 minutes, but for only several seconds, and then the music resumes in the earlier key and the bird call returns, then the key changes, then returns back again, and the bird call motif occurs again.

CONCERTO No. 2. MAESTOSO begins sounding somewhat like a melange of Brahms and Beethoven. The strings sound Brahmsian while the piano engages in Beethoveseque dramatic posturings. At the 6-7 minute time interval, the music actually sounds like Chopin, and what I have in mind here is a motif from Chopin's Nocturne op. 32 No. 1 in B major. This motif occurs at 15-20 seconds into this nocturne, and it takes the form of a weird "twisting" sound motif.

LARGHETTO starts out with a series of chord changes, festooned with dainty tinklings from the piano. The chord changes are just chord changes, they are not captivating, and they are easy enough for any piano student to play. Then, Larghetto steps up in volume at the 3 1/2 minute mark, but then quiets down. At 4 min 20 sec, the listener is treated to a strange episode of jittery music, sounding like the soundtrack from a horror movie. At 6 min 40 sec, what returns is the series of garden-variety chord changes festooned pianistic embroidery.

ALLEGRO VIVACE begins with a waltz, with a prominent prancing and strutting from the string section. What a welcome change this is from the boring LARGHETTO. The waltz theme is repeated, sometimes with syncopations, sometimes with a key change, and sometimes with an inverted version of the waltz theme. ALLEGRO VIVACE is arguably the most interesting movement on the entire disc.

CONCLUSION. I first heard the Chopin piano concerti some time ago, circa 1978. I only listened to it a couple of times, because it does not have any strong Chopinesque imprint, and because it is relatively devoid of any tunes, as compared to Chopin's Polonaises and Preludes. During the interval between 1978 to 2015, I never paid much attention to Chopin's piano concerti.

However, for the past few years I have taken an assertive and proactive interest in piano-only versions of the Brahms symphonies, piano concerti, and of the Brahms chamber music, of the piano versions of Mahler's symphonies, and of piano versions of Bartok's CONCERTO FOR ORCHESTRA and MIRACULOUS MANDARIN. And so, it was only a matter of time before I would purchase all of Fumiko Shiraga's recordings (which I have done). It came as a relief that this Chopin chamber version of the piano concerti has a beautiful and sensuous sound, and perfect sound engineering. Because of this recording, it is likely that I will eventually become a "convert" to this Chopin composition.

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