Although only 21 when this album appeared in early 2017, Polish-Canadian pianist Jan Lisiecki was no newcomer: he had already been on Deutsche Grammophon's roster since 2010 and released several recordings. The buzz surrounding Lisiecki, especially in Poland and its orbit, has been intense, and this recording will show the curious why. Lisiecki has yet to develop real power (and he's hampered by a rather distant NDR studio acoustic from DG), but the music on the program here, catching the moment when Chopin's distinctive style unfurled like a rare flower, fits his style uncannily well. These piano-and-orchestra works (and one posthumous piano nocturne) are not often performed. Probably the most popular piece is the Andante spianato and Grande Polonaise, Op. 22. Its solo piano introduction was composed after the fact and seems imperfectly joined to the polonaise, but Lisiecki's utterly arresting reading will make you forget all about that. Even better are the other piano-and-orchestra pieces, all of them normally counted as second-tier Chopin. Lisiecki doesn't just make a case for them; he calls the whole ranking into question. Sample the two movements of the the Rondo à la Krakowiak, Op. 14, with Lisiecki setting up subtle tension between the opening pentatonic material and the lively krakowiak, Chopin's only essay in this dance form. The Lisztian Fantasy on Polish Airs, Op. 13, is a flashier work and is not quite as successful, but the Variations on "Là ci darem la mano," Op. 2, have an unusual dramatic sense. This is an extremely promising release from a young specialist in Chopin and Mozart.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Andante spianato & Grande Polonaise brillante in G major / E flat major Op. 22|
|Rondo à la krakowiak in F major Op. 14|
|Variations on "Là ci darem la mano" from Mozart's Don Giovanni Op. 2|
|Fantasy on Polish Airs Op. 13|
|Nocturne in C sharp minor op. posth|