Paul Badura-Skoda / Artur Rodzinski

Chopin: Piano Concertos

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On the rare occasions that the majority of American listeners think of Viennese pianist Badura-Skoda, they most likely think of him as a Mozart/Haydn/Beethoven/Schubert player, as a classicist with plenty of gemütlichkeit and a generous dollop of schlagobers. This view is at best a caricature and at worst an insult to Badura-Skoda's artistry. Like his teacher Edwin Fischer before him, Badura-Skoda was a sensitive Central European pianist who was far less interested in using the piece to demonstrate his technique than in finding the heart and soul. And while his pedigree and inclination did in fact make him a singularly persuasive interpreter of Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, and Schubert, as this 1954 recording shows, it also made him a fine interpreter of Chopin. In the Polish master's two piano concertos recorded with Artur Rodzinski leading the Vienna State Opera Orchestra, Badura-Skoda demonstrates a sure hand, a steady eye, and a complete understanding of Chopin's expressive bent. His performances do stress the composer's classical roots -- rarely have the works' structures been so clearly articulated -- but he does not overlook the works' poetry, and these performances are as expressive in their way as Rubinstein's are in theirs. Cleanly if distantly recorded by Westminster, these recordings sound even cleaner if no less distant in these remasterings by Aaron Z. Snyder. Though aimed more at Badura-Skoda fans than at Chopin fans, this disc will still have something interesting to say even to Chopin fans.

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