Thursday, 4 January 2018

CD Review (The Straits Times, January 2018)

Mahler Chamber Orchestra 
Mikhail Pletnev (Conductor)
Deutsche Grammophon 479 7518 (2 CDs) 

Here is yet another recording pairing both of Frederic Chopin's piano concertos, but this one is quite different. Spread over two discs, multi-award winning Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov plays the concertos in reverse order, which is chronologically correct. 

The Second Piano Concerto in F minor (Op.21) was composed before the First Piano Concerto in E minor (Op.11) but published later, hence the larger opus number. He takes an expansive view of both concertos, aided and abetted by veteran pianist-conductor Mikhail Pletnev's orchestrations which drags out the tuttis, highlights and adds quirky and piquant woodwind voices.

Trifonov's playing is however light-footed and scintillating which prevent the performances from sounding portentous or ponderous. His Chopin-inspired additions are excellent, teaming with his teacher Sergei Babayan on two pianos in the delectable Rondo in C major (Op.73), and two wonderful sets of variations. 

Chopin's own La Ci Darem Variations after Mozart's Don Giovanni and Federico Mompou's Variations On A Theme By Chopin, based on the little A major Prelude (Op.28 No.7), get performances which will be hard to better. Throw in further encores in the form of Chopin's Fantaisie-Impromptu, Barber's Nocturne and shorter pieces by Schumann, Grieg and Tchaikovsky, one gets a more complete picture. This is truly Chopin advocated with dedication and love.    

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