CHOPIN Piano Concerto No 1 (Pobłocka)
Although Ewa Pobłocka has amassed a sizeable discography since the early 1980s, only a handful of releases have crossed my desk, such as her highly acclaimed recording of Panufnik’s Piano Concerto with the composer conducting (RCA, 5/92), a fine Grieg Concerto (Conifer, 8/95 – nla) and a terrific recital of Polish songs with the mezzo-soprano Ewa Podleś (CD Accord, 10/99). All the more reason to welcome the live archival performances offered on this disc.
The Chopin E minor Concerto stems from a 1984 concert. It’s likely that the presence of an audience and sense of occasion fuels the first movement’s bracing momentum. Lyrical passages certainly get their due, yet Pobłocka’s well-proportioned rubatos and shapely inner voices allow no dead spots; listen, for example, to how she keeps the E major second theme afloat, helped by a strong left-hand presence. Kazimierz Kord and the Warsaw Philharmonic keep up with the soloist every step of the way. The central Larghetto also receives a fluent and robust reading, where the decorative piano-writing and beguiling first-desk solos bask in the spotlight as equal partners. The Vivace Rondo’s breathtaking yet not breakneck speed never lets up, nor does it ever faze Pobłocka’s dazzling yet intelligently pointed fingerwork. No wonder the audience erupts with applause, and you will too.
The live Bach selections from a 1985 concert make use of pianistic devices such as hairpin dynamics and impulsive dabs of pedal that may bother acolytes of relatively ‘purist’ Bach pianists like Tureck, Schiff, Perahia and Hewitt, yet are always tastefully and musically deployed. Pobłocka brings a thoughtful sense of narrative to the Chromatic Fantasy and begins the Fugue with limpid calm. Unfortunately the textures get thicker, louder and slower as they unfold, but that’s true of many live piano performances of this work. The Sixth Partita’s highlights include a calm, reposeful Allemande, the Corrente’s marvellously crisp détaché articulation and a Gavotte whose lighthearted countenance is slightly clouded by the heavy-handed concluding Gigue. Get this disc primarily for the Chopin Concerto.