Seong-Jin Cho / Gianandrea Noseda / London Symphony Orchestra

Chopin: Piano Concerto No. 1; Ballades

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Following his debut album on Deutsche Grammophon, where he offered a live recital of solo piano pieces by Chopin, Seong-Jin Cho presents his first studio recording on the label, again featuring works by the Polish master. First up is Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, which Cho performed when he won the 17th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition and which is still fresh in his repertoire. Accompanied here by Gianandrea Noseda and the London Symphony Orchestra, Cho dispenses with the layers of sentimentality that have accreted around the work and gives a vigorous but light performance that focuses on brilliant technical displays and the transparent solo part. The orchestral textures are subdued and the feeling of the concerto is almost Mozartean, due to Cho's clarity and the lively tempos that keep the music moving forward. The rest of the program consists of the four Ballades, where Cho is given a greater opportunity to stretch out and indulge in elastic tempos and fluid expressions. The performance of the Piano Concerto No. 1 doesn't quite prepare the listener for this dreamier side of Cho, and his generous use of rubato may come as a surprise after the control he showed earlier in the program. Listeners who prefer a leaner style in Chopin may favor Cho in the concerto, but there's plenty of introspection and poetry in his rapt readings of the Ballades.

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