Notes and Editorial Reviews
It's unusual to start a CD review of Chopin's concertos by talking about the orchestra, yet here's a recording where the composer's accompaniments take on a sense of distinction, specificity, and musical meaning with which many conductors don't even bother. A short booklet note from Stanislaw Skrowaczewski addresses issues of balance, attention to dynamics and note values, and the need for woodwind thematic solos and bass lines to be fully audible, not timid. It goes without saying that the orchestral tuttis are played complete, without the "traditional" cuts that still sneak into today's performances. Sure enough, the conductor backs up what he says, obtaining playing that's unfailingly supportive, vibrant, and alive, rather than
micromanaged in the manner of Krystian Zimerman's overinterpreted DG remakes. These qualities were evident in Skrowaczewski's Chopin concerto accompaniments for Alexis Weissenberg in the late 1960s, but his Saarbrücken musicians seriously outplay the old Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire, and Weissenberg's cold, mannered pianism hasn't one scintilla of Ewa Kupiec's poetic cultivation, to say nothing of her impeccable taste.
Kupiec channels her considerable finger power toward infinitely nuanced ends and always adjusts her sonority to interact with her fellow musicians. Notice how she's willing to scale down the E minor concerto's fiery arpeggios in order to allow thematic woodwind licks to be heard, and how rightly she shares the central Romance's expressive spotlight with the solo bassoonist. And even within her reduced dynamic contours in the F minor's Larghetto, Kupiec's varied tone colors and articulations beckon your full attention. There are listeners, of course, who'll prefer more assertion from the soloist, in keeping with Martha Argerich's scintillating virtuosity or Arthur Rubinstein's red-blooded panache. Yet Skrowaczewski and Kupiec realize their shared conception perfectly, and they probe the intimate, chamber-like dimensions of these scores with open minds and hearts, helped by a warm and natural sonic ambience. [7/21/2004]
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
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