Known for his dazzling performances of music by Franz Liszt and Sergey Rachmaninov, Russian virtuoso Nikolai Lugansky presents his first recording of the two piano concertos of Frédéric Chopin, which are much quieter than his usual fare. Indeed, the music seems quite intimate and almost chamber-like on this 2013 Naïve Ambroisie release, due to Lugansky's controlled and fairly introspective playing. Furthermore, the moderate scale and restrained sound of the Sinfonia Varsovia, conducted by Alexander Vedernikov, keeps the emphasis on the piano, where most of the interest lies. Presented in the order they were composed, Chopin's piano concertos reflect the stile brillante, which was in fashion in the early 1830s and show the influence of Italian opera in their ornate slow movements, which are designed as arias for the piano. While Chopin's piano parts are elaborate and harmonically sophisticated, his orchestral writing is rudimentary, adequate for the task of accompanying the piano without being intrusive; here it provides a subdued but attractive background for Lugansky's nuanced solos. Naïve's recording gives the piano central placement and credible presence, though it doesn't seem artificially boosted or recorded too closely.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
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