Chopin's piano writing is never criticised; his orchestral writing, in contrast, very much is. And yet his two piano concertos are staples of the repertoire. Emmanuel Despax has elected to record the chamber versions, which offer a different slant on this music and, as we shall see, often a revelatory one.
Here's a teaser to show just how sensitive and beautiful this release is:
What you gain in these versions is clarity and light, but little loss in power or profundity. Here; the opening of the First Concerto:
Despax plays on a Fazioli, bright of tone yet capable, when required, of great intimacy. One of the highlghts here is the whispered string opening of the slow movement of the E-Minor Concerto; and yet the finale fizzes with energy:
Or, try the burrowed-brow opening of the Second Concerto, and how that opens out, in the "orchestral tutti" to what is effectively a string quartet exposition (here's the complete first movement); and listen to how assertive Despax is at his entry:
The finest movement is the Larghetto of the Second Concerto, itself associated with Chopin in love (possibly with the singer Constance Gladkowska). This is true intimacy, true chamber musoic from all players, and the "recitative" passages against tremolo strings carry full force:
And yet, the finale of this Second Concerto has moments of quietude that are properly reflective in a way that only chamber music can achieve:
Despax's pianism is all we know to expect form him by now: considered, eminently musical, deeply committed. He is clearly at home in chamber music, and the Chineke! players are most sympathetic partners. Despax's Brahms is a known excellent quantity - how about some Brahms chamber music next? The F-Minor Piano Quintet, Op. 34, perhaps?Emmanuel Despax Chopin