Notes and Editorial Reviews
Piano Concerto No. 1.
Fantasia on Polish Airs. Krakowiak
Eldar Nebolsin (pn); Antoni Wit, cond; Warsaw PO
NAXOS 8.572335 (67:42)
In 1992, Eldar Nebolsin won the grand prize and gold medal at the Santander International Piano Competition. A year later, still in his teens, he went into the studio to record his debut album for Decca, a program of Chopin and Liszt. He presents there consistently involving and imaginative performances, worthy of a pianist of much riper years.
Unfortunately, a major recording career did not materialize for him. Though he studied with Dmitri Bashkirov, Nebolsin was not particularly photogenic and did not bang, two strikes against him in the popularity contest for young pianists. Happily Naxos, from which so many good things flow, has caught up with Nebolsin in his mid-30s and is recording him in a diverse repertoire. The present CD is one of two surveying Chopin’s complete music for piano and orchestra. Antoni Wit and the Warsaw Philharmonic previously recorded the First Concerto with Olga Kern. Nebolsin’s set is the first to use the new Polish National Chopin Edition. To me, the most noticeable change from older editions is in the articulation of some of the tuttis in the opening movement of the First Concerto.
Nebolsin performs the first movement of the concerto at a moderate, almost measured tempo that really allows the music to sing. He has beautiful articulation and a liquid tone. His passagework is especially clean. Although Nebolsin’s technical skill is outstanding, his playing is so lyrical that you don’t think about his chops. The orchestra supports him with a luminous tone; the solo horn plays especially well. The second movement is a true
. Nebolsin spins out the main melody most operatically. He plays very affectionately here, but never too delicately. In the last movement, Nebolsin doesn’t hurry. He relishes every bit of filigree phrasing. The Polish dance rhythms are especially pointed. Nebolsin’s runs are gorgeous, never breathless. All in all, this is a highly accomplished version of the concerto.
Fantasia on Polish Airs
, Nebolsin allows himself greater license than in the concerto. The work is more openly a virtuoso showpiece than the concerto, and Nebolsin proves very comfortable with its rhetorical flourishes. The orchestra handles the work’s folk-music elements beautifully, contributing a dark, brooding sense of melancholy. The performance of
has considerable brio. Nebolsin treats the opening highly evocatively, leading to a subtle rendering of the dance rhythm in the main theme. Much of the piano writing in the work is dense, and Nebolsin provides considerable sonic heft when required.
Naxos’s sound engineering is excellent, full and well balanced. Interestingly, they did not use one of their regular engineers, but instead turned to the Polish label CD Accord for theirs. I think anyone should be happy to add this CD to their library, particularly at Naxos’s price. My favorite recording of the concerto is Géza Anda’s on Testament. Among recordings still in print, I like those by Annerose Schmidt and Janne Mertanen. For the shorter works, Nelson Goerner’s period-instrument version is highly stimulating. Nevertheless, I am happy to have Eldar Nebolsin back again in Chopin. It has been a long time coming.
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