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Chopin: Piano Concerto No. 2; Variations on "La ci darem" [Blu-ray audio]

Album Summary

>Chopin, Frédéric : Concerto for Piano no 2 in F minor, B 43/Op. 21
>Chopin, Frédéric : Variations for Piano and Orchestra in B flat major on Mozart's "La ci darem", Op. 2
>Chopin, Frédéric : Andante spianato et Grand polonaise brillante in E flat major, Op. 22
Performer Conductor Ensemble
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Notes & Reviews:

Using the new Polish National Chopin Edition, acclaimed pianist Eldar Nebolsin and Poland's national orchestra conducted by the renowned Polish conductor Antoni Wit, here present fresh interpretations of Chopin's great works for piano and orchestra. Eldar Nebolsin has played with the most famous orchestras around the world, including the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Deutsches Symphonie Orchester, Tokyo Metropolitan Orchestra, and the Vienna Chamber Orchestra, among others, and with outstanding conductors such as Ricardo Chailly, Yuri Temirkanov, Leonard Slatkin, and Charles Dutoit.

Audiophile Audition - John Sunier
The latest in Naxos' continuing series of audio-only Blu-ray releases were recorded in Warsaw's Philharmonic Hall in 2009 as 88.2K/24-bit 5.0 surround and PCM stereo. This is the latest effort from Naxos at providing some of their titles as hi-res surround recordings, since they gave up on SACD and DVD-Audio after a short time. In addition to the unusual format - of which there have only been a few releases so far - both of these albums used the new Polish National Chopin Edition of the scores, said to be the most accurate to date.

Pianist Eldar Nebolsin hails from Uzbekistan and won the Sviatoslav Richter Prize in 2005 at the International Piano Competition in Moscow. He launched his international career in l992 and has appeared with major orchestras and conductors around the world. He has previously done acclaimed Naxos albums of Rachmaninov's Preludes and the two Liszt Piano Concertos, as well as recordings for Decca and Oehms.

Both concertos were written by the teenage Chopin so that he could have virtuosic and flashy concerti to perform himself in public. The Second was actually written prior to the First. Both have a similar three-movement structure of Maestoso, Larghetto and Vivace, except that in the First the Vivace movement is in Rondo form. The First's central movement is a stirring Romanza that the composer described as "one's beautiful memories." The dramatic opening movement is balanced by a virtuosic Rondo finale.

The other two Chopin works are about 13 and 14 minutes length each, and both make use of folk music elements from his beloved Poland (although he lived most of his adult life in Paris). They are also quite virtuosic, with the Grand Rondeau ending with quotation of the native dance of Krakow, the Krakowiak.

The Second Piano Concerto of 1830 was written just before Chopin set out for Vienna, which location failed to work for him and he eventually found his way to Paris. Sounding a bit less like Chopin than Hummel or Spohr, the work nevertheless has some lovely melodies and its closing Mazurka is certainly Polish-sounding, with interesting orchestral effects. Chopin's first teacher was a contemporary of Mozart and instilled in Chopin a love of Mozart, which explains his variations on Mozart's children's' song we know better as "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." The Grande Polonaise was composed in Vienna and later had the Andante spianato preface added to it. Chopin's sparkling version of the Polish native dance is most attractive.

Conductor Antoni Wit was kept busy recording Chopin with the Warsaw Philharmonic. He made these hi-res Blu-ray surround recordings in September of 2009 for Naxos. Then in February of 2010 he again conducted both of them for an Accentus Blu-ray video (Accentus Music ACC-10202B) - this time with two different pianists - Evgeny Kissin in one concerto and Nikolai Demidenko in the other, plus a couple of solo piano encores. Kissin had started his career by playing both concertos in a Moscow concert in 1984. The Blu-ray video became available in January and has received excellent reviews. I don't know what format was used for the original recordings and haven't viewed it.

Both are lovely performances, and both have surround sonics in lossless DTS 5.0 surround on Blu-ray, but the Kissin/Demidenko release also has the 16:9 Blu-ray videos going for it. However, at $45 retail it is a bit more expensive than both Naxos at about $40 total.

David's Review Corner - David Denton
Recorded at the same time as the First concerto, I can add little to my enthusiasm for the sound quality of these Blu-ray releases. In my admiring review when released on CD I said 'his tempos are unhurried, but at the same time he never dallies so as to exaggerate a particular moment, while linking passages do not become breathing space'. It is a purposeful view of the concerto that avoids outward showmanship, the finale avoiding the customary sprint for the finishing line. The Variations on an aria from Mozart's opera Don Giovanni does lean a little more towards a display of brilliant technique, Nebolsin's second and ninth variations being a display of dexterity. I like his rather understated Andante spianato and Grand Polonaise brilliante, and throughout Antoni Wit and the Warsaw Philharmonic have unforcedly drawn our attention to detail that is often glossed over. Now we have a sound that can improve even on the excellence and natural perspective of the CD version.

Fulvue Drive-in - Nicholas Sheffo
... a continuing series of Blu-rays dubbed High Definition Audio Disc by Naxos in an attempt to lure audiophiles into the format. With only menu images, the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra with pianist Eldar Nebolsin delivers Chopin: Piano Concerto No. 1 + No. 2 on separate discs. Recorded in 24-bit 88.2 kHz PCM surround, the discs offer PCM 2.0 Stereo and DTS-HA MA (Master Audio) 5.0 mixes of the music (both 96/24 and recorded in 2009) and this is not as harsh as some of the previous such recordings and releases, comparatively smoother than before. These are very nice presentations and go nicely with the Chopin Blu-rays Naxos and Accentus (Accentus ACC-10202B & ACC-20104) just issued...

BBC Music Magazine
The two Chopin discs are also impressive, with Eldar Nebolsin comfortably among the finest interpreters of his generation. The Concerto No. 1 can hold its head up along side almost any performance,the Second is occasionally a touch more workmanlike, but both discs score strongly for their inclusion of Chopin's relatively rare other works played with such relish.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Warsaw Philharmonic Hall, Warsaw, Poland (09/01/2009-09/05/2009).


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Works Details

>Frédéric Chopin (1810 - 1849) : Concerto for Piano no 2 in F minor, B 43/Op. 21
  • Performer: Eldar Nebolsin (Piano)
  • Conductor: Antoni Wit
  • Notes: Warsaw Philharmonic Hall, Warsaw, Poland (09/01/2009-09/05/2009)
  • Running Time: 30 min. 44 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Form: Concerto
  • Written: 1830

>Frédéric Chopin (1810 - 1849) : Variations for Piano and Orchestra in B flat major on Mozart's "Là ci darem", Op. 2
  • Performer: Eldar Nebolsin (Piano)
  • Conductor: Antoni Wit
  • Notes: Warsaw Philharmonic Hall, Warsaw, Poland (09/01/2009-09/05/2009)
  • Running Time: 16 min. 2 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Written: 1827

>Frédéric Chopin (1810 - 1849) : Andante spianato et Grand polonaise brillante in E flat major, Op. 22
  • Performer: Eldar Nebolsin (Piano)
  • Conductor: Antoni Wit
  • Notes: Warsaw Philharmonic Hall, Warsaw, Poland (09/01/2009-09/05/2009)
  • Running Time: 14 min. 22 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Written: 1830-1835