Perfunctory deliveries of Chopin
Though they hardly set the world on fire, these are fine live performances of Chopin's two piano concertos.
Repertoire: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2
Artist: Daniel Barenboim, Staatskapelle Berlin/Andris Nelsons
Label: Deutsche Grammophon 4779520
The Music: Live performances of Chopin’s two piano concertos captured at the 2010 Ruhr Piano festival, a well-worn coupling (Deutsche Grammophon alone have five other versions currently available) but with the added interest of hearing the great conductor and pianist in his first recordings of these works.
The Performance: To learn and absorb these two technically and musically demanding works in your late sixties is a phenomenal, if not unique, achievement (most pianists have these staples of the repertoire under their fingers in their early twenties) but then not everyone is a Barenboim. The earliest of the concertos (No.2) comes off best with a strongly characterised second movement and a greater ease and fluency to the playing than No.1 with its cautious tempos and elaborate point making. The support of his Berlin Orchestra is no more than efficiently workmanlike.
The Verdict: These are fine rather than outstanding performances – nothing to frighten the horses but not much, on the other hand, to write home about – and no match for the stiff competition from seasoned Chopin players like Argerich, Rubinstein, Perahia and others.
Want More? Try my current favourite recording of these two concertos: Sa Chen with the Gulbenkian Orchestra of Lisbon and Lawrence Foster (Pentatone, PTC 5186 341).