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Topic: Unusual or Exceptional Chopin Concerto No. 1 Recs?  (Read 945 times)

Offline fftransform

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Unusual or Exceptional Chopin Concerto No. 1 Recs?
on: November 08, 2021, 06:20:17 AM
I like the piece alright, but was never super into it; I always skip the concerti when I'm watching Warsaw, but this year I watched it all and felt a bit unsophisticated as a listener when it came to the first concerto.  Now I wanna do a deep dive on it.

What are some really good perfs, live or studio?  It's fine if it's just a movement picked from this one or that one!  I'm also interested in unique interpretations, especially ones with lot of 'golden era' flavor a la Horowitz/Hofmann/Michelangeli; the playful salon touches, basically.  Not super looking for heavy Russian sounding ones, but maybe some from the 70's/80's would be nice, love the equalization from that era.
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Offline thalbergmad

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Re: Unusual or Exceptional Chopin Concerto No. 1 Recs?
Reply #1 on: November 08, 2021, 09:29:33 PM
It is a rarity for me to listen to it as I prefer the dobrzynski PC, but when I do it is usually Pires or Pollini, the latter probably the one that divides the most opinion.
I am probably in the minority, but I do not object in the slightest to Tausig's "improvements".

Thal
Curator/Director
Concerto Preservation Society

Offline fftransform

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Re: Unusual or Exceptional Chopin Concerto No. 1 Recs?
Reply #2 on: November 09, 2021, 01:43:52 AM
It is a rarity for me to listen to it as I prefer the dobrzynski PC, but when I do it is usually Pires or Pollini, the latter probably the one that divides the most opinion.
I am probably in the minority, but I do not object in the slightest to Tausig's "improvements".

Thal

Thanks!  Any particular Pollini?  Defo trust your taste on this sort of music, more your wheelhouse for sure.

Edit: Actually, if by Pires you mean the DG studio one, then I really didn't like it.  I mean, it's perfect playing for her interp - too perfect.  The 1st movement was relentlessly imperial and dynamically narrow, so about 15' in I skipped to the 3rd and I found it to also be overly even and unspontaneous.  There were definitely some amazingly controlled and interesting filigrees here and there, but I'm looking for something more . . . spritely?  Dangerous?  Explosive?  This sounded very close to her Schubert playing - love her Schubert Impromptu 4 Op. 142, it's my fav tho.

This is what I listened to:

Offline ranjit

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Re: Unusual or Exceptional Chopin Concerto No. 1 Recs?
Reply #3 on: November 09, 2021, 04:12:05 AM
Take a look at this:

Offline fftransform

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Re: Unusual or Exceptional Chopin Concerto No. 1 Recs?
Reply #4 on: November 09, 2021, 05:47:36 AM
Nice, haven't listened to any of Cziffra's yet.  I listened to an Argerich, Cho and Hofmann to get a baseline, now have heard the Pires as well.  Also eager to check out these:











Opinions afterward:

The Neuhaus faded in and out in terms of quality; mostly it was hyper-lush and Scriabinistic, but there are large swathes of the piece where he's turning in a really astounding interp.  Also a few spots that are downright-sloppy, mostly in the 3rd movement which only had little bursts of noteworthiness after the first few minutes, whereas the other two had longer stretches of greatness.  The piece definitely doesn't drag in his hands, tho, even if the style wasn't what I was looking for: Opted for shimmering Arrau-like effects instead of delicate/meticulously timed ones almost exclusively.

The Cziffra was way overpedaled and actually kinda . . . surprisingly basic?  Apart from a Lisztian sort of pedaling - i.e. everywhere that it makes any sense at all - there were no classic Cziffra outbursts or 'big noises' which was actually sorta disappointing.  The finale of the 1st movement does show his technique, but it's not particularly impressive or anything, about what I'd expect to hear at a comp.  I found the other two movements to be pretty standard in sound: Obv the third has some flare-ups of fun virtuosity, but it was still an overly full sound for me.

Wunder's 1st movement was in the style you'd expect to see at the Warsaw 10 years ago, namely very conservative.  But he had a lot of power, and also had the Warsaw winner-level practice under his belt (I think the world has come to realize that Wunder was the 2010 winner, even if the jury didn't realize it in time).  Among the conservative interps I've heard so far, his was the best.  Easily oscillates between a powerful sound and a lyrical one with very sophisticated transitions.  But sadly I found his 2nd movement to be the most perfunctory I've heard so far, which is a shame since ofc it's my favorite.  There's just . . . absolutely no content coming from him there aside from a couple of more-drawn-out-than-usual smorz's between sections (I liked them, tho), I guess he practiced it so much that he completely lost his interest for it.  His expressions seem a bit contrived through that movement, so that's my assessment.  Third movement is very gallant and galloping, and edges toward old school dry touches, but always backs off.  It's a bit too joyous, though if you wanna hear what Hanon every day can do for your passagework, you'll get plenty of powerful and ultra-clean runs for your listening trouble, sorta like Shishkin's increasingly legendary Hummel.  Fast, fearless, driving, beggars awe.  Overall it's a very good perf, but -again- not my style.  Trif was at the 2010 and Shishkin was at the 2015, boy did the jury drop the ball those years.

After the first ten minutes of the Lipatti, I was preparing to start this paragraph with, "but then I heard the Lipatti."  Here is the roundest sound apart from Neuhaus, but my prejudices against that were defeated by the playing.  The most sorrowful by far amongst the first movements, and the most expressive playing in the slower sections - the thundering parts were played forcefully, and also rigidly but with enough tone and voicing sophistication to keep them plenty interesting, producing a really compelling ten minutes.  But then I heard the rest of the Lipatti.  The second half of the first movement was exhausting in a strictly-bad way to me, played misuratissimo and flatly, with less strength and more fatigue (apparently he was sick during this perf).  The second movement, which I was hoping to be a knockout after his playing at the beginning, was still quite rigid and the sound profile narrowed even more.  Apart from a few little moments here and there, nothing stood out in the 3rd movement either, and despite the metronome-like playing (or maybe even because of it) I really lost the full narrative here and he never got back to full strength during it.  I liked the Saint-Saens/Massenet French-Romantic sound he picked up for the final minutes, though.

Decided to do Pollini next.  First the 1988 Rozhdestvensky since it was described as an 'exciting' one, but the mixing/acoustics were terrible and after a few minutes it was clearly gonna be ultra-conventional.  Switched to the 1960 Kletzki, no regrets.  If Wunder's was galloping, this was writhing.  Missing any 'flashy' virtuosity or pre-Soviet salon sounds for the most part in the 1st, so in terms of the color palette this was another plonk into the 'soppy' bucket, even more than you'd expect from Pollini; it was coming right off of Warsaw, so kinda to be expected.  There were some really nice, light passages, but they were still modest.  Not quite the Paderewski/Pachmann "jeu de perle," impressive for their evenness and control rather than bony hollowness, which at this point I was DESPERATELY craving.  Don't get me wrong though, they were -astoundingly- executed, something most concert pianists couldn't do in the studio with a whole day for the one page.  If this is the rec Thal meant, then yes it's in the top tier IMO along with the Argerich, Wunder and Hofmann.  The second movement was a touch fast often, but delicate and sweet the whole way through.  It's definitely a unique interp, somehow "wholesome."  The third movement was primarily driving and imperious, similar to Pires' - a bit showier in the fast parts, more playful and scenic in other sections - so perhaps why Thal picked out this pair.  Solid but not exceptional in terms of interp aside from that little interlude that crops up after the opening and before the finale, which he brought much more meaning to.  Definitely exceptional note-playing though.

Saved the Son and Rosenthal for last, cuz I thought they were most likely to have what I was looking for.  Son is known for an old style of play, check his Andante Spianato et al, best modern perf ever maybe, makes Trifonov's "I play like the old masters" reputation seem like a joke.  Son was the real deal in his youth:



So just like the Pollini, I switched recs from the one I linked above to a live one, because the piano on the Bruggen is either -terribly- miked or is a historical instrument.  But then the interp on the more recent one was timid/same-ish and switched back to the Bruggen.  Looked it up, 1848 Pleyel piano - and it seemed to inspire him to play more with an old master style.  FINALLY.

Well, at least from time to time, but that's pretty much what I was looking for.  I'd love to have even more, but this perf - and it's not because of the instrument's sound, it's because of how the instrument inspired him to play - is so far the closest to how I envision the piece.  This is not a 'historic performance,' but rather a modern performance on a historic instrument, so it does sound a little funny when he goes full Russian.  However, even though there were a lot of passages played with that 'historical' flavor (as we interpret it from recordings that are ofc actually 20th century) he seemed satisfied just using the paints, didn't do anything particularly spectacular *with them.*  I didn't feel the death-defying virtuosity, the teetering, that should be a part of that sound.  It was more . . . facsimile, unlike that Grand Polonaise above where he made you feel the risk.  Hofmann, despite its occasional weirdness and sound quality, is so far still the one I'll go to for that.  The second movement was not helped at all by the old instrument; obviously a modern piano can do more with it.  And actually his chords were a bit noisy tbh.  Eventually I skipped to the 3rd, which proved to be the main attraction.

A bit reserved tempo and rhythm-wise and occasionally goes a bit flat, but tone-wise Son's third movement on the Pleyel is often like hearing Cortot and Horowitz take turns at the bench.  This perf deserves notoriety, definitely the 'find' so far.

Ok, now onto the Rosenthal, the dessert of this batch.  At least that's what I wanted, but the interp ended up being more forward-looking for the era than I was hoping for.  Of course it's still very nice, replete with special sounds that you don't hear in the concert halls these days . . . but there's nothing here that you won't find even more distilled and refined in the Hoffman.  So, I would recommend this perf to people who want the old style, but not too wild.  This is an accessible blend of Hofmann and Arrau.  The 2nd movement is wonderful in an understated way, with a few extra filigree and a lot of subtle rhythmic play.  It feels somehow . . . intended for the masses, not the high brows, and in a good way.  The sound quality is a problem for such quiet playing, but the playing is there in spades, and it only gets more and more wrought as the movement continues.  Best 2nd movement I've heard so far hands down.

I was about to give up on this Rosenthal being some secret, rare treat that was going to sate my appetite for the golden era touch, but the third movement delivers!  I heard the first fifteen seconds, and paused and had a cigarette first before restarting.  I don't know what that means, but it was instantly engaging and I knew this was what I was looking for.  This stands next to the Hofmann in terms of tonal brilliance, and then as soon as you can't take it any more it becomes so sweet and childlike . . . just exquisite.  Must-hear.

Here's my quick rundown of the recs so far, asterisks by 'listen to this one' suggestions:

Cho- Beatific, serene, choral
Argerich- Intense, noiseful, fiery
Hofmann*- Spritely, explosive, spontaneous
Pires- Imperious, austere, standard
Pollini*- Writhing, desperate, virtuosic
Wunder*- Gallant, awesome, powerful (best conventional 3rd movement)
Cziffra- Strong, measured, round
Neuhaus- Scriabinistic, lush, lilting (first movement slow sections worth hearing)
Lipatti- Sorrowful and baleful, then retreating and simple (check first 10 minutes tho)
Son*- Old Master-esque, eclectic, Polonaise-flavored
Rosenthal*- Brilliante, yearning, dazzling (best golden-era-sound 3rd movement)

Trying to be fair: Cziffra and Argerich are my fav pianists on that list, just not for this.

Offline lelle

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Re: Unusual or Exceptional Chopin Concerto No. 1 Recs?
Reply #5 on: November 10, 2021, 10:10:18 PM
I like the piece alright, but was never super into it; I always skip the concerti when I'm watching Warsaw, but this year I watched it all and felt a bit unsophisticated as a listener when it came to the first concerto.  Now I wanna do a deep dive on it.

What are some really good perfs, live or studio?  It's fine if it's just a movement picked from this one or that one!  I'm also interested in unique interpretations, especially ones with lot of 'golden era' flavor a la Horowitz/Hofmann/Michelangeli; the playful salon touches, basically.  Not super looking for heavy Russian sounding ones, but maybe some from the 70's/80's would be nice, love the equalization from that era.

Glad to hear someone with good taste! I can't stand heavy Russian Chopin. Idk why they choose to play him that way instead of a way that sounds good.

In my opinion the 2nd Concerto (which was written first if I remember correctly) is the superior work as well.

Offline fftransform

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Re: Unusual or Exceptional Chopin Concerto No. 1 Recs?
Reply #6 on: November 10, 2021, 10:13:50 PM
Glad to hear someone with good taste! I can't stand heavy Russian Chopin. Idk why they choose to play him that way instead of a way that sounds good.

In my opinion the 2nd Concerto (which was written first if I remember correctly) is the superior work as well.

Yeah for sure the 2nd concerto is a better piece (apart from the middle movement; I mean, you just can't beat that).  Check the 3rd movement of the Rosenthal and 1st of the Hofmann if you haven't, wonderful stuff!


Next batch:























Though I'll probably listen to an older Arrau rec and a live Lang Lang, but there aren't any on youtube that are complete, sadly.  The Huang-ci is the one I'm most curious about, she does -ludicrous- things in a studio.  Have heard that the Zimerman and Perahia are intense, too.

Offline lelle

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Re: Unusual or Exceptional Chopin Concerto No. 1 Recs?
Reply #7 on: November 10, 2021, 10:17:14 PM
Yeah for sure the 2nd concerto is a better piece (apart from the middle movement; I mean, you just can't beat that).  Check the 3rd movement of the Rosenthal and 1st of the Hofmann if you haven't, wonderful stuff!

Next batch:

Though I'll probably listen to an older Arrau rec, but there aren't any on youtube that are complete, sadly.

Thanks for the recommendation, I will listen at work tomorrow!

Speaking of middle movements, this recording of the middle movement of the 2nd concerto needs to be heard at least once in one's lifetime:

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