Wednesday, 31 May 2017

CD Review (The Straits Times, May 2017)

CHOPIN Piano Concerto No.1        
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No.4
Gemeaux Quartet et al
RCA Red Seal 88875061442 / ****1/2

There are different ways of listening to piano concertos, either regarding them as orchestral works with virtuoso piano parts integrated within the formal architecture, or as chamber music with solo pianist in the driving seat. This interesting new recording by Dutch-Chinese pianist See Siang Wong seeks the latter viewpoint, with two popular piano concertos sounding like new works in the process.

Richard Hofmann's transcription of Chopin's First Piano Concerto does not significantly alter the solo piano part. However there are surprises when the piano is heard with the string quintet (two violins, viola, cello and double bass) in the tutti sections.

Wong and his chamber partners play a radically different version of Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto which combines Vinzenz Lachner's string reduction of the orchestra with a little-known piano score edited by violinist Franz Possinger, which was first performed at a private concert in 1807. The piano part sounds more improvisatory and virtuosic than the published version that listeners know today.     

The performances here are highly idiomatic and sympathetic, and even if they provide a mild shock to the senses, the departure to parts less trodden is well-worth the time.

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