Tamami Honma

Frederic Chopin: Piano Concertos No. 1 in E minor & No. 2 in F minor (Piano Quartet Version)

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Reductions of orchestral works for amateur and domestic use were common through the nineteenth century, and Christopher Morley notes in the booklet to this little British release that many such reductions exist for the two piano concertos the young Frédéric Chopin composed early in his career. Other composers (Mozart, for example), actually wrote string quartet versions of their piano concertos. And the orchestral parts of Chopin's two concertos are essentially simple, with little detailed interaction with the solo part. Still and all, the two reductions of Chopin's concertos recorded here, for string quartet and piano, create quite an unusual effect and stand somehow apart from the long tradition of such arrangements. The string quartet renderings are contemporary, made by pianist Bartlomiez Kominek, seem to increase the importance of the orchestral passages beyond the Bellini-like introductory function they have in the full version. Especially in the slow movements, they divert the listener's attention away from the florid piano part and toward the small details that presaged Chopin's radical harmonic thinking. Characteristically Polish rhythms, submerged in concert-hall dimensions, emerge in both the piano and orchestral parts. Kominek retains the col legno passage in the finale of the Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21, which, Morley points out, was the first instance of this technique, predating that in the Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique by several months. It's easy to imagine this version being played for a group of connoisseurs in one of the Paris salons that discovered Chopin, even though it did not originate at that time. The fine performance by Japanese-American-British pianist Tamami Honma aids the goals of the transcription; she balances the twin requirements of reduced dynamic range and increased rhythmic flexibility nicely, and her coordination with the Vilnius String Quartet bespeaks thought and careful rehearsal. The sound, recorded in Lithuania's National Philharmonic Hall, is less successful; a more intimate venue was needed to match the unique salon-sized music contained on the album.

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