The Sandalphon John Philip Sousa
Many great composers go through periods of significant self-doubt and introspection – particularly when embarking on a major new work.
For Chopin, though, there was a sense of abandonment – naïvety, even – in much of his writing. Here was a composer who was barely out of his teens, still within education – still growing up, essentially. And yet, at the same time, he was able to tackle the form of the piano concerto for the first time and come up trumps in a quite astounding way.
Just consider the number of famous composers who had already triumphed in the genre: Mozart composed twenty-seven; Beethoven created five, and near-contemporaries of Chopin such as Hummel and Field had also excelled when it came to writing in concerto form. Along comes Chopin, pretty much still at school, and produces two such concertos in the space of a year. Sickening, really!
If we’re being really picky, we could point out that this concerto does seem to be harking back to earlier composers more than No.1 (which was, in fact, composed after this one). The influence of the likes of Hummel and Mozart is apparent even in the politely structured opening bars of the first movement. But, overall, this is an astonishing work for a composer so young.
Eldar Nebolsin (piano); Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra; Antoni Wit (conductor). Naxos: 8572336.
Illustration: Mark Millington