Ricardo Casero / Volker Schmidt-Gertenbach / Sinfonia Varsovia

Chopin: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2

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Chopin, who composed more exclusively for his instrument than any other contemporary or proceeding composer, had a great many skills; orchestration was not chief among them. Although his two piano concertos are cornerstones of the repertoire that demonstrate the full range of the piano, they are best performed when the orchestra stays out of the way. On this Arte Nova two-disc set, the Sinfonia Varsovia under Volker Schmidt-Gertenbach doesn't always do this. In fact, the orchestra seems to take its part, particularly in tuttis, far too seriously, resulting in the accompaniment truly getting in the way of the piano. This is not helped by the fact that the overall recorded sound quality is rather quiet and when the volume is turned up, listeners generally just get more orchestra. The two-disc set also contains three Polonaises and four Ballades. Pianist Ricardo Castro is to demonstrate his true musical gifts without interference from the orchestra here. The sound is still remarkably quiet, however, and listeners will still need to crank up the volume to hear all of the nuance with which Castro is obviously attempting to imbue his playing.

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