Notes and Editorial Reviews
Reissued as part of EMI’s “Classic Recordings” series, these emphatic performances come from 1967, a year after pianist Alexis Weissenberg returned from a 10-year sabbatical from playing. They are justly celebrated recordings of pieces that have been exquisitely played by a wide variety of Chopin pianists. We have Cliburn’s and Pollini’s and Earl Wild’s First, to mention performances that are quite unlike each other, and excellent recent performances of both concertos by Ashkenazy, Maria João Pires and Krystian Zimmerman. I have recommended in these pages the inexpensive two-disc set (Deutsche Grammophon Panorama) that is really a Martha Argerich collection, including her Second Concerto, with a 1968 Ashkenazy performance of the First Concerto thrown in. There are a dozen more that could be mentioned
Surely Weissenberg deserves to be considered in this company. He has a big sound and big heart, splendid technique and an unforced, unmannered delivery. That means that the opening movement of the Concerto in F Minor has the majesty and rhythmic force that Chopin demands. Just as effective is Weissenberg’s clear-toned, undistorted, and therefore exquisitely touching rendition of the ensuing Larghetto. He uses rubato, but always tactfully. I have listened repeatedly to Weissenberg playing the second movement (Romance: Larghetto) of the First Concerto, which is one of Chopin’s most lovely creations. He plays beautifully, never falling into sentimentality, or over emphasis. The orchestra is generally fine, though not perhaps on a par with the Philadelphia Orchestra that accompanied Cliburn. This is an excellent reissue of playing by a pianist many listeners adore.
-- Michael Ullman, FANFARE [9/2003]