CHOPIN Piano Concertos (Richard-Hamelin)
In the wake of Charles Richard-Hamelin’s second prize at the 2015 competition in Warsaw, the Chopin Institute released an impressive two-disc set, demonstrating the breadth and depth of his interpretations of the Polish master. This new Analekta release affords us the pleasure of hearing Richard-Hamelin in both Chopin concertos with the expert collaboration of Kent Nagano and the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, recorded live in concert last October.
Richard-Hamelin’s overriding concern is the life of the phrase, achieved by replicating Chopin’s expressive gestures through precise observance of every detail in the score. His playing never sounds routine or exhibitionistic. In his hands, Chopin’s bravura passagework is imbued with meaning, its purpose the preparation or embellishment of a lyrical moment. High-flown fioritura seems informed by what a great singer could accomplish with the utmost taste and refinement. Unusually for a musician with Richard-Hamelin’s focus on detail, his imaginative grasp of the larger musical architecture remains secure. Supported at every juncture by Nagano and the Montreal musicians, and beautifully captured by the Analekta engineers, these are Chopin concertos of extraordinary originality and distinction.
Both rondos suggest a festive celebration of the dance. Neither is especially fast, yet both describe movement with the grace and precision of an expert corps de ballet. The Romanze of the E minor Concerto speaks with delectable sweetness, poised and restrained, creating a genuine dialogue between soloist and orchestra. Liszt described the incomparable Larghetto of the F minor Concerto as ‘of an ideal perfection, its feeling radiant and passionate by turn’, in which ‘joy is tempered and sorrow is sweetened’. Here it evokes an eloquence of the sort with which one imagines Talma and Bocage held Parisian audiences in thrall nearly 200 years ago.
I would suggest that, even if you have a dozen recordings of the Chopin concertos on your shelf, you won’t regret adding this one.