About this Recording
8.550368 - CHOPIN: Piano Concerto No. 1 / Fantasia on Polish Airs / Andante Spianato

Fryderyk Chopin (1810 - 1849)

Piano Concerto No.1 in E minor, Op. 11
Fantasia on Polish Airs, Op. 13
Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise, Op. 22

Relatively early in his career Chopin realised that he excelled in performance of more intimate delicacy than was generally possible in the concert hall. Nevertheless in a world that still made little distinction between composer and performer, he provided himself with compositions for piano and orchestra with which to make his name at the start of his career. It was only once he had established himself in Paris in the 1830s that he turned rather to the kind of playing that he made so much his own, performances that demanded great technical proficiency, but made no attempt to impress, as Lisztand Kalkbrenner did, by displays of sound and fury.

Born in Warsaw in 1810, the son of a French emigre father and a Polish mother, Chopin studied with the director of the Warsaw Conservatory, at first as a private pupil and later as a full-time student. At home he had already impressed audiences, but fame lay abroad, and in pursuit of that chimera he set out for Vienna, a city where he had already attracted some attention on an earlier visit. On the second occasion he achieved nothing, and travelled instead to Paris, while his native Poland, to his dismay, was in the turmoil of political disturbance that led to the firm establishment of Russian hegemony. It was in France that Chopin was to remain, favoured by Society as a teacher and as a performer.

The E minor Piano Concerto was the second of the two to be composed and was written, like its companion, in Warsaw, before Chopin left Poland. The concerto was tried out in private and then given its first public performance on 11th October, 1830, at the composer's last Warsaw concert. On 2nd November he left home for good. Chopin dedicated the work to his friend Tytus Woyciechowski, and while it expresses something of his love for his closest companion, it summarises in its slow movement his feelings for the young singer Konstancja Gladkowska. He described the Adagio as "like dreaming in beautiful spring-time-by moonlight".

The concerto relies heavily on the solo instrument, and Chopin himself played it on occasions without the assistance of an orchestra. The orchestral exposition has been considered by some to be too long, while others have found fault with the orchestration, and editors have sometimes seen fit to make changes to remedy these supposed faults. The idiom of the solo part remains entirely characteristic of the composer, with a slow movement "reviving in one's soul beautiful memories", as Chopin put it, and a final rondo providing a structure into which the composer's genius fits rather less easily.

The Fantasia on National Polish Airs, Opus 13, was written in 1828 and published in Paris in 1834, with a dedication to the Mannheim virtuoso pianist Johann Peter Pixis. It came at a time when Chopin, still a pupil of Józef Elsner at the Warsaw Conservatory, was beginning to experiment more widely with forms beyond those of any prescribed syllabus and was first performed in Warsawon 17th March, 1830, at a National Theatre concert that included the F minor Piano Concerto. The Fantasia opens with an orchestral introduction, before the entry of the piano with figuration that bears the unmistakable mark of Chopin's own musical language, to which the orchestra has little to add. The first theme, the air Juz Miesiac Zaszedi, is announced by the soloist and repeated by the orchestra, with elaborate piano embellishment, testimony to Chopin's own technical proficiency on the instrument. The second theme chosen is by Karol Kurpinski, principal conductor at the Warsaw Opera and conductor of Chopin's first public concerts, and is thoroughly Polish in form and inspiration. The theme is introduced by the clarinet, leading to a dramatic intervention from the soloist, and a slower, gently lyrical version of the theme, which is later taken up by the orchestra once more, with bravura embellishment from the piano. It is the latter that ushers in the final Kujawiak, a theme typical of the Kujawy region, to the north-west of Warsaw, and once again a framework for characteristic solo display.

The more familiar Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise is a composite work. The Polonaise itself was completed in 1831 and the introductory Andante Spianato in 1834. Both were published together in Paris in 1836. Chopin w rote the Polonaise during his unsatisfactory stay in Vienna in the winter of 1830 -1831 and it represents his last attempt at writing for the orchestra. In Paris he performed the complete work on 26th April, 1835, at a benefit concert at the Conservatoire for the conductor Habeneck. The introductory G major Andante, for piano solo, is entirely typical of the poetic idiom that informed Chopin's musical language. The orchestra embarks on the Polonaise, and after a pause, the soloist enters with his own dashing version of the native Polish dance, now transformed into an art-form and a vehicle for lyrical pianistic panache.

Idil Biret
Born in Ankara, Idil Biret began piano lessons at the age of three. She displayed an outstanding gift for music and graduated from the Paris Conservatoire with three first prizes when she was fifteen. She studied piano with Alfred Cortot and Wilhelm Kempff, and composition with Nadia Boulanger.

Since the age of sixteen Idil Biret has performed in concerts around the world playing with major orchestras under the direction of conductors such as Monteux, Boult, Kempe, Sargent, de Burgos, Pritchard, Groves and Mackerras. She has participated in the festivals of Montreal, Persepolis, Royan, La Rochelle, Athens, Berlin, Gstaad and Istanbul. She was also invited to perform at the 85th birthday celebration of Wilhelm Backhaus and at the 90th birthday celebration of Wilhelm Kempff.

Idil Biret received the Lily Boulanger Memorial Fund award (1954/1964), the Harriet Cohen/Dinu Lipatti Gold Medal (1959) and the Polish Artistic Merit Award (1974) and was named Chevalier de l'Ordre du Mérite in 1976.

Czecho-Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra (Košice) The East Slovakian town of Košice boasts a long and distinguished musical tradition, as part of a province that once provided Vienna with musicians. The State Philharmonic Orchestra is of relatively recent origin and was established in 1968 under the conductor Bystrik Rezucha. Subsequent principal conductors have included Stanislav Macura and Ladislav slovak, the latter succeeded in 1985 by his pupil Richard Zimmer. The orchestra has toured widely in Eastern and Western Europe and plays an important part in the Košice Musical Spring and the Košice International Organ Festival.

For Marco Polo the orchestra has made the first compact disc recordings of rare works by Granville Bantock and Joachim Raff. Writing on the last of these, one critic praised the orchestra for its competence comparable to that of the major orchestras of Vienna and Prague. The orchestra has contributed several successful volumes to the complete compact disc Johann Strauss II and for Naxos has recorded a varied repertoire.

Robert Stankovsky
Robert Stankovsky was born in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, in 1964, and after a childhood spent in the study of the piano, recorder, oboe and clarinet, turned his attention, at the age of fourteen, to conducting, graduating in this and in piano at the Bratislava Conservatory with the title of best graduate of the year. Stankovsky is regarded as one of the best conductors of the younger generation in Czechoslovakia. For Marco Polo Stankovsky has recorded symphonies by Rubinstein and Miaskovsky in addition to orchestral works by Dvorák and Smetana.

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