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CD Review

Frédéric Chopin

  • Piano Concerto #1 in E minor, Op. 11
  • Nocturne #4 in F Major, Op. 15 #1
  • Nocturne #5 in F Sharp Major, Op. 15 #2
  • Nocturne #7 in C Sharp minor, Op. 27 #1
  • Nocturne #8 in D Flat Major, Op. 27 #2
  • Ballade #1 in G minor, Op. 23
  • Polonaise #6 in A Flat Major "Héroïque", Op. 53
Maurizio Pollini, piano
* Philharmonia Orchestra/Paul Kletzki
EMI (Warner Masters) 09996-78707-2
Find it at AmazonFind it at Amazon UKFind it at Amazon GermanyFind it at Amazon CanadaFind it at Amazon FranceFind it at Amazon JapanOrder Now from Find it at JPC
Available on Great Recordings of the Century 72435-67548-2:
Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - JPC
Reissued on EMI Centenary Edition 72435-66221-2 (1997): Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - JPC

It's easy to forget that Maurizio Pollini began his career on EMI, now under the Warner Classics umbrella. He made only a handful of recordings there, chief among them this recording of the 1st Piano Concerto that launched his career. This disc is wonderful. While this concerto – and the earlier second – often get sneered at for having lackluster orchestral parts, the piano so dominates that a great pianist can make us forget about those anyways.

Under the watchful eye of Paul Kletzki, the Philharmonia plays very well, with unusual attention to detail. That's all you need to know about that. Pollini is absolutely the more important factor, and he is magnificent. Often seen as a cold and cerebral pianist, he does focus on clarity and directness of expression, in that there is no dilly-dally anywhere. The concerto has a firm framework, both in terms of the interpretation and the orchestral conception. Yet the pianist is less "icy" than he would later become, displaying admirable warmth in the slow movement, and a playfulness that is sometimes absent from his DG recordings. The solo selections are much the same, refreshingly straightforward without ever losing the singing quality that makes Chopin so special.

These recordings were re-mastered in 2001 for the "Great Recordings of the Century" series, sounded identical on Musical Heritage Society in 2003, and retain the 2001 re-master for the EMI Masters issue. It seems unlikely that this will change with the Warner imprint, so any disc after 2001 will work if you are interested in these classic readings. The Musical Heritage Release features the complete EMI brand box, with only the MHS logo on the back to tell it apart. Whichever way you choose to acquire this program, you should.

Copyright © 2015, Brian Wigman