Chopin: Piano Concerto & Scherzos

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Chopin: Piano Concerto & Scherzos


This CD displays both Ms Blumental’s phrasing and technique as well as her affinity for the music of her homeland. Her stirring and illuminating interpretation of the 2nd movement in Chopin’s Concerto is beautifully balanced by the four lively Scherzi.

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This CD displays both Ms Blumental’s phrasing and technique as well as her affinity for the music of her homeland. Her stirring and illuminating interpretation of the 2nd movement in Chopin’s Concerto is beautifully balanced by the four lively Scherzi.

Fryderyk Chopin – Piano Concerto in F minor, Op. 21

Felicja Blumental – piano
Robert Wagner – conductor
Innsbruck Symphony Orchestra

  • Maestoso (14’06)
  • Larghetto (9’26)
  • Allegro Vivace (8’40)

Fryderyk Chopin – Scherzo No. 1 in B minor, Op. 20 (10’12)
Fryderyk Chopin – Scherzo No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 31 (9’48)
Fryderyk Chopin – Scherzo No. 3 in C sharp minor, Op. 39 (8’05)
Fryderyk Chopin – Scherzo No. 4 in E major, Op. 54 (11’38)

Felicja Blumental – piano

Total running time (71’58)

When Fryderyk Chopin wrote his piano concerto in F minor, aged just 19, his two teachers, Zywny and Elsner, had already made their greatest contribution; imbuing him with a profound love and respect for Bach and Mozart, and recognising they could teach him nothing about piano performance. Chopin’s genius was fully formed by childhood.

His two concertos have remained firm favourites with pianists and audiences, the epitome of beautiful melody, yet many of his solo works, nearly all of which are mainstays of the concert program, startled his contemporaries and were frequently misinterpreted throughout 19th Century performance. His four scherzos are perfect examples of the innovation and explosive drama in his compositions that baffled even his supporters.

This contrast perhaps goes to the heart of Chopin’s. His love of opera saw early fruition in the melodic lines of the concertos, after which he saw no need to return to this form. Instead, his extraordinary natural technique gave him the power to experiment beyond any previous pianistic ideas, relentlessly pursuing the contrasting and often anguished themes in his imagination. George Sand recalled her lover spending day after day struggling with the chords of scherzo no. 3, in “this obstinate battleÖto recapture certain details of his composition.”

Chopin’s perfectionism was deliberate, both in his writing and in his obsession with the manner of performance, for above all he strove for the right effect, the essence of what would be heard, to convey his feelings. As Charles Rosen said, “[Chopin’s] music, never calculated, like much of Bach, for solitary meditation, works directly on the nerves of the listener, sometimes by the most delicate and fleeting suggestion, sometimes with an obsessive, hammered violence.”

So here are the two matchless dimensions of Chopin; the almost impossibly poignant, singing melody, and the darker, turbulent creativity of the piano’s solitary perfectionist.

Fryderyk Chopin: Piano Concerto in F minor, Op. 21

Chopin composed this as his first concerto in 1829, but publication was delayed for revisions to the orchestration. It was thus published as his second concerto, after the E minor concerto, Op. 11, which he wrote in 1830. Dedicated to Countess Delfina Potocka, a celebrated beauty, excellent soprano, and one of his pupils, Chopin gave premieres in Warsaw and Prague in 1830, but never performed it publicly again.

This was most likely due to his withdrawal from concertizing as his health deteriorated, rather than any disenchantment with the work. He certainly encouraged his pupils to play it, accompanying them in practice on a second piano. Liszt referred in letters to the slow movement, “for which [Chopin] had a marked predilection, and which he liked to play frequently.”

Chopin’s limited attention to orchestration underscored his preference for mastering bel canto operatic forms. While there is less excitement for the orchestra in the concerto, the piano part is sublime, with perfectly formed melodies in the Italian style, especially in the magical Larghetto. The eminent musicologist Tovey described it as, “a masterpiece in a form and mood which neither Chopin nor any other composer reproduced later. The finale is a delightful example of the long ramble through picturesque scenery.”

Fryderyk Chopin: Scherzos 1-4, Op. 20, 31, 39, 54

It is hard to pinpoint exactly when Chopin wrote each of his scherzos, as his perfectionism meant he often held works back from publication while he repeatedly revised them. The first was published in 1835, though he is known to have written its original version in 1831 during his first year in Paris, and the last in 1843.

For most composers, a scherzo [‘joke’] meant a lightweight piece or miniature, so it is little surprise that these vigorous and dramatic works of imagination shocked listeners. With each piece, Chopin drew landscapes of style and expression which had few if any precedents. Polish music scholar Tomaszewski said the four scherzos “mark the culminating point in the history of the genre.”

Chopin urged his pupils to concentrate on legato, and listen to great singers; “If you want to play the long cantilena in my Scherzo [no. 2], go hear Pasta or Bellini.” His ill health and physical weakness limited his playing, but certainly not his imagination, and his innovation, intensity, and command of dissonance, are at their peak in the scherzos. David Dubal, in his important book, “The Art Of Piano”, said, “The scherzos are epics among Chopin’s works, and their instrumental brilliance has made them staples of the concert hall; each of them demands a highly finished technique.”


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