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8.550369 - CHOPIN: Piano Concerto No. 2 / Krakowiak

Fryderyk Chopin (1810 - 1849)

Piano Concerto No.2 in F minor, Op. 21
Variations on "Là ci darem la mano" from "Mozart's Don Giovanni", Op.2
Krakowiak, Grand Rondeau de Concert, Op. 14

Chopin throughout his life remained a Polish patriot. Paradoxically he was the son of a French father, who had settled in Poland to avoid conscription into the French army and had become a respected teacher of French in Warsaw. To add to the paradox, Chopin spent almost his entire professional career in Paris, where he moved in 1831, quickly winning acceptance as a fashionable piano-teacher and as a performer in the elegant salons of the French capital.

As a pianist Chopin lacked power but commanded a delicate and varied idiom and technique of his own. The greater part of the music he w rote is for solo piano, but at the outset of what seemed likely to be a career as a virtuoso he w rote works for piano and orchestra, the kind of music that any performer-composer might have as part of his stock-in-trade.

The second of Chopin's two piano concertos was written before the first, but both were completed in 1830, the year in which the composer gave his final concert in Warsaw, before setting out for Vienna and then Paris. The concerto was first tried out in a private performance at home. Two weeks later it was repeated in public, in a programme that included the Fantasy on Polish Airs, before an audience of some 800 and performed again five days later, together with the Krakowiak, using a louder piano, to overcome objections of inaudibility.

Reminiscent in style of the work of Spohr or Hummel, leading composers of the time, the F minor Concerto follows its dramatic first theme with a second, gentler subject, announced by the woodwind, before the entry of the soloist with the first striking theme. The romantic second movement has a brief orchestral introduction before the entry of the piano, in the mood of a Nocturne. The last movement may appear to bear all the marks of a Mazurka, its music characterised by novel orchestral effects, as the violins accompany one episode with the wood of the bow and a horn-call heralds the movement's final section, during the course of which the second horn descends to the depths, while the piano brings the work to a climax.

Chopin's Variations on Là ci darem la mano, from Mozart's opera Don Giovanni, bear witness to his admiration for Mozart, instilled by his earliest teacher, the Bohemian Wojciech Zywny, an exact contemporary of Mozart. In the summer of 1829 Chopin visited Vienna, in the company of friends from the University. Here he hoped to arrange for the publication of the Variations and of his first Piano Sonata. The Variations formed the substance of a concert urged by his prospective publisher, Haslinger, and given at the Kärntnerthor Theatre. Here he further dazzled the audience by his improvisation, particularly pleasing them by his treatment of a Polish theme. On this occasion the orchestra refused to play his Krakowiak, since the parts provided were illegible, but matters were put to rights by the Warsaw student Nidecki, in Vienna on a government scholarship, and the Krakowiak was performed at a second concert, a week later, with the Mozart Variations as an unexpectedly generous encore.

The Introduction to the Mozart Variations toys with fragments of the well known theme, allowing the soloist an opportunity for brilliantly decorative chromaticism, before tackling the theme itself. The first variation is characterized by its triplet rhythm running accompaniment and is followed by a version that allows the soloist a dramatic development of the theme in demi-semi-quavers, a quadruple division of the beat. The rhythm is continued in the left-hand accompaniment to the third variation, to which the orchestra only adds its own conclusion. The original version of the fourth variation gives the pianist rapid arpeggios in the accompaniment of the theme, played by the orchestra, while a later version provides the soloist with an even more ambitious figuration of leaping chords. The fifth variation opens with a dramatic B flat minor cadenza, this Adagio leading to the final Polish transformation of Mozart's duet in a brilliant conclusion.

The Grand Rondeau de Concert, the Krakowiak, again susceptible to performance without the assistance of an orchestra, an eventuality for which the composer provided in an adjusted solo version, opens with an idyllic introductory Andantino, linked to the Rondo itself by a passage of sudden brilliance. The orchestra announces the rhythm of the Krakowiak, the dance of Krakov, the first F major theme alternating with a second theme in D minor, to which it is linked by an extended bravura passage in which Poland is for the moment briefly forgotten.

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 Dvorak and Smetana.

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