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Chopin: Piano Concertos 1 & 2 - Chen, Foster

Chopin: Piano Concertos 1 & 2 - Chen, Foster

PentaTone Classics  PTC 5186341

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Frederic Chopin: Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor Op. 11, Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor Op. 21

Sa Chen (piano)
Gulbenkian Orchestra Lisbon
Lawrence Foster (conductor)

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Review by John Broggio - October 22, 2008

A disc that is likely to prove controversial amongst listeners.

First, the unquestionably positive aspects of the disc; Lawrence Foster does his usual sterling work for orchestras in more straightforward works (for them!) and audibly inspires a highly polished and committed response from the Gulbenkian Orchestra Lisbon. The team work of Sa Chen and Foster is clearly evident too and the sense of togetherness is quite remarkable in a pair of concertos where the conductor all too often sounds like he is just beating time, with no care for the music - a charge which is completely without foundation here. Sa Chen's technique is quite astonishing - few if any pianists can have produced such a delicate, glittering and glowing tone throughout these works - a flood of gleaming white pearls kept coming to mind when listening - nor can many have audibly delineated the myriad of markings in the score. The tempo choices are steady, with no obvious revisionist tendencies on display.

What will not prove to be so universally admired though will be Sa Chen's way with rubato or choice of interpretation vis a vis the underlying drama of the concertos. Sa Chen adopts a light touch even at times of high dynamic markings, which makes for a wonderfully understated performance that firmly places the works as precursors to Saint-Seans piano concerto no.1 - some listeners may well miss the drama that is teeming beneath the surface. More problematic will be Sa Chen's tendency to elongate phrase endings almost endlessly - if this stylistic device was utilised sparingly it would have been very touching but it is applied almost universally at the end of each long paragraph and so loses some of the emotional impact. On repetition, the spinning out of the line may well become wearing although when faced with such beauty it is perhaps churlish to grumble!

Pentatone's recording is unquestionably the finest sound that these works have ever been given and is astonishingly life-like; the balance between piano and orchestra is nigh-on perfect and the multi-channel recording gives a pleasing sense of being in an ideal stalls seat.

Recommended (with caution!)

Copyright © 2008 John Broggio and HRAudio.net

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