Chopin – Piano Concerto No. 2 – London Symphony Orchestra – Adolfo Barabino – Vol. 4 – CR6021
£9.99 – £23.99
“However, I do not believe that anyone bough a concerto record because who the orchestra was, and those connoisseurs of pianism who have been following Barabino’s traversal of Chopin’s piano music on the Claudio label will welcome this outstanding new disc with the greatest pleasure. I have no doubt that this performance will give the most lasting satisfaction. Barabino’s performances of the Berceuse and the group of Mazurkas are also in the highest class. Make no mistake, this is an outstanding recording in every way”
James Palmer (Musical Opinion)
Piano Concerto No. 2, Mazurkas, Berceuse
Chopin’s concertos are regarded as the pinnacle achievements of the “Warsaw” period of his oeuvre, his childhood and his youth until his departure from Poland in November 1830. Both concertos became widely renowned from the moment they were written, and still today they hold a firm place in the pianistic canon among the most celebrated Romantic works of this genre. The F minor Concerto Op. 21, his favorite, first composed but published as the second, is regarded as the more lyrical even intimate and delicate. It was linked to the “style brilliant”, characterised by great bravura, brilliance and technical display, as well as a fondness for tuneful, sentimental themes.
Particularly famous is its second movement (Larghetto), a temple of love and peace, seen as a musical confession of feeling, written during the period of Frédéric’s first love for Konstancja Gladkoska. The Allegro vivace finale includes a stylisation of Mazurka elements, here treated with exceptional virtuosic bravura.
Chopin performed this concerto in public at the Theatre Narodowy in Warsaw, in March 1830. The combination of his personal individual style, kept in balance with a light and delicate accompaniment of the orchestra, made of Chopin a composer considered one of the most promising pianists and creative geniuses of his time.
The origins of the “Berceuse” are probably linked to Chopin’s delight at the eighteen-month-old daughter of his friend, the singer Pauline Viardot. The little Louise won his heart and may well have inspired the composer to write a lullaby-style piece.
Here he produced one of the most extraordinary works, composed in an exceptionally refined and masterful way. The work is based on a four-bar theme, followed by a series of sixteen variations. Throughout virtually the entire piece, the right-hand part is accompanied by a fixed bass formula in the left, purposely static, which create unusual and innovative colouristic and tonal-harmonic effects, at times prefiguring musical impressionism. In keeping with the demands of a true lullaby, the “Berceuse” adheres to a piano and pianissimo dynamic.
Chopin’s Mazurkas would not exist without Polish folk dances and Polish folk music. With his Mazurkas, Chopin could convey his intimate love for his homeland along all his life. At the same time they demand of the pianist an almost naive freshness and a mature mastery…. an elegance and lightness….
In these pieces, Chopin made direct reference to three folk dances, which he knew well from numerous visits to the Polish countryside: the “Mazur”, the “Kujawiak” and the “Oberek”.
The “Mazur” is lively and temperamental in character, in a quite brisk tempo, with a tendency towards irregular accents; the “Kujawiak” in a slow tempo, with a tuneful melody and the “Oberek” is lively dance in a quick or very quick tempo, with a cheerful, or even exuberant, character. The Mazurka, Op. 68 No. 4 in F minor, written in the summer of 1849, is the last composition that he wrote.
The interpretation of Chopin’s music should go towards emphasizing its delicacy and elegance, incorporating the smallest of nuances, which mostly occur in a range of very slender sound. All these shades allow him to express his deepest feelings and his most intimate sensations.’’ This is what is really fascinating in Chopin’s music.
Although he often improvised his compositions we know that he often took several weeks putting them to paper. A perfectionist, Chopin chose each note with the same accuracy and thoroughness as a poet could elect one single word.
When Chopin died in France in 1849, his body was buried in Paris but his heart was returned to his beloved Poland. On his tombstone in Paris’ Pere Lachaise Cemetery is engraved the image of Euterpe, weeping over a broken Lyre. The compositions on this recording are the real mirror of his pure and elegant soul.
© 2015 Adolfo Barabino
For many record collectors, the notion that a small independent company could, in the quality of recorded sound it produces, be consider not only the equal of, but in some instances superior to, results we associate with the largest and most widely acclaimed companies in the world would appear far-fetched.
But in some instances, it is true. Music lovers, over the years, may have come to associate the biggest and most powerful of companies as necessarily the ‘best’ in the business’ as the saying has it, and of course, in many ways, the finest orchestras and artists, recorded in the best equipped studios or in the acoustically acclaimed best-known performance venues, will often be found to have been captured in recorded sound quality that is consistently fine. That is as it should be.
So fine, in fact, that we have become used to it – used to assuming that the sound we hear on compact disc after compact disc, as they flow from the companies, is the ‘proper’ or the best’ sound we can have. At times, it has reached the point when a record collector, someone whose main experience of music is through the medium of the gramophone, has been shocked on going to a concert and hearing an orchestra, or chamber ensemble or singer or solo instrumentalist, ‘live’ – the shock being that in reality and in many venues, the musicians in reality do not sound as they do on commercial recordings.
Claudio Records, founded and driven by the commitment of Colin Attwell, has been ploughing a lonely furrow for a number of years, but the company has built up a relatively extensive catalogue of recordings covering a wide range of music, from medieval manuscripts to music of the present-day. In the course of this journey, Attwell has supported many young musicians – as well as some not so young, in the latter instance established artists whom the larger companies have tended to bypass.
The result has been for Claudio Records a catalogue of diverse and uncommonly interesting material with performances that often compare favourably with the finest and most acclaimed issues from the larger ‘majors’.
Which brings us back to our opening observation, for the latest recording to have come my way from Claudio Records features Adolfo Barabino with the London Symphony Orchestra, in Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, together with a group of solo piano pieces, mainly Mazurkas, a disc on which – in the Concerto – the recording quality and balance of the piano and orchestra is well-nigh perfect. Indeed, it is so natural and so convincing that I do not think I have ever heard a technically better recording of a concerto for piano and orchestra. In that regard, credit must naturally be extended to the conductor, Lee Reynolds, a name I confess I had not encountered prior to hearing this disc.
However, I do not believe that anyone bough a concerto record because who the orchestra was, and those connoisseurs of pianism who have been following Barabino’s traversal of Chopin’s piano music on the Claudio label (this is announced as Volume 4) will welcome this outstanding new disc with the greatest pleasure. I have no doubt that this performance will give the most lasting satisfaction. Barabino’s performances of the Berceuse and the group of Mazurkas are also in the highest class. Make no mistake, this is an outstanding recording in every way.