Saturday, November 2, 2019

Huzzas for Chopin's Second Concerto

Tonight we enjoyed hearing at Kennedy Center in D.C. the National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Krzysztof Urbanski play Chopin's Second Piano Concerto, with Lise de la Salle, the pianist. This was the third and last performance of this concert, which had not yet been reviewed in the Washington Post. The concerto itself is wonderful and the presentation by Mlle de la Salle and the NSO under Maestro Urbanski was magnificent.

Not being familiar with any Chopin compositions other than his piano works, which is a little bit like saying not knowing much about Verdi except his operas (ok, there's the Requiem, of course, and the quartet, which remains sort of an oddity), this concerto was a revelation and this pianist excited listeners and us as much as last year when I heard Daniil Trifonov playing Schumann and other piano challenges with much panache.

Chopin of course was the soloist in the 1830 premiere, and the piano soloist's part contains about every type of piano virtuoso element. It kept your interest without being either repetitive or merely pyrotechnical. It was entirely different in style, but still the bravura effect of the performance reminded me of the wonderful recording of Vladimir Horowitz playing the fantastic and famous Chopin Polonaise in A-flat Major.

The remainder of the concert featured Graznya Bacewicz's Overture for Orchestra written in 1943 which was brief (six minutes) and held interest as well as being enjoyable. The last section of the program after intermission was Tchaikovsky's Fourth. I hadn't heard it before but the one part that was more than pleasant was the second movement with its two great themes. This movement will be instantly familiar to you as one of those Greatest Moments in Music pieces, but that shouldn't diminish the delight it inspires. 

The rest of the symphony seemed mainly bombastic and repetitive to me, except for the third movement's pizzicato which sounded like nothing I had ever heard before and was definitely something worth hearing for the first time. Consider all the strings playing quite an extended section of purely pizzicato with none of the rest of the orchestra included for most of this scherzo movement.

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