This CD features a number of world première recordings
In the 19th Century it was customary for concertos to be performed publicly in four different versions, designed for both salons and concert halls. This double CD features the first-ever offering world première recording of the four versions of Chopin’s Concerto No. 2 in F Minor, Op. 21:
1. For Piano and Orchestra, with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra conducted by Edvard Tchivzhel.
2. For solo piano: Chopin’s own arrangement.
3. For piano and string quintet, with the Heidelberg Symphony Orchestra Quintet, in the arrangement by pianist David Lively, versions by contemporaries of Chopin not having survived.
4. For two pianos, where the second instrument plays transcriptions of the orchestral parts: Chopin’s own score for the tutti; that of his friend Jules Fontana for the accompaniment to the 2nd and 3rd movements and that of the publishers of the National Edition of the Works of Frédéric Chopin, Jan Ekier and Paweł Kamiński, for the accompaniment to the 1st movement.
A) For piano and orchestra
3 Allegro vivace
The Queensland Symphony Orchestra, Edvard Tchivzhel
(Piano: Hamburg Steinway D)
B) For piano solo • Arrangement: Chopin
6 Allegro vivace
(Piano: Bösendorfer Imperial)
C) For piano and string quintet • Arrangement: David Lively
1 Maestoso *
2 Larghetto *
3 Allegro vivace *
Heidelberg Symphony Orchestra Quintet: Violin I: Benjamin Spillner • Violin II: Ariane Volm • Viola: Annette Hartmann • Cello: Pirkko Langer • Contrabass: Michael Tkacz
(Piano: Yamaha GP CFIII S)
D) For 2 pianos • Arrangement: Chopin, Ekier, Kamiński, Fontana
4 Maestoso *
5 Larghetto *
6 Allegro vivace *
Piano I & II: C. Katsaris
(Pianos: Steingraeber & Söhne concert grands E-272)
The piano and orchestra version is outstanding. The Queensland Orchestra plays with a freshness and vigour that many better-known ensembles do not match. Katsaris brings an easy fluency to the solo part. In the slow movement the filigree passages feel almost improvised, its central section alternating between high drama and lyrical wistfulness. Musically, this is, not surprisingly, the most successful version. The solo arrangement is a pianistic tour de force. […]. The two-piano arrangement makes a worthy addition to the repertoire […].
International Piano (United Kingdom)
“The orchestral original is given a straightforward account, quite crisply accompanied, and Katsaris, as an old hand at transcriptions, makes a good case for the piano solo version. Perhaps the most intriguing recording here is Lively’s edition with solo string quintet […]: the Concerto comes across most attractively as a piece of chamber music.”
International Record Review (United Kingdom)
In part, the pleasure of the set comes from the very significant differences among these four versions – not only the timbral differences, but also the differences in the kind and degree of freedom that they offer the soloist. Even more, though, I suspect it comes from the curious fact that we have here a seasoned virtuoso, steeped for a lifetime in the romantic tradition, coming to this ultra-canonical work for the first time. The combination of experience and freshness is completely winning.
Interpretively, each performance has its virtues. My favorite, as I’ve said, is the solo version, which seems the most extroverted. In profile, it’s a somewhat chiseled, almost edgy, performance, with a surprisingly searing middle movement. But for all the rhythmic and textural clarity (indeed, his performance of the orchestral introduction is far more bracing than that on the orchestral version), for all the heightened accentuation, for all the glint of the filigree, it’s the most flexible as well, especially in the mazurka passage that Katsaris emphasizes in our conversation. That said, it’s hard not to enjoy the gentle luxury of the Larghetto in the chamber version, which generally tends to bring out Katsaris’s gentler side – it’s a conversation among friends more than a grand public utterance. The orchestral version has its virtues, too. I’ve always felt that the orchestra parts soak up some of the energy in both Chopin concertos, and that certainly happens here, too; but, in recompense, the outer movements are less pushy, more good-natured than they are in the solo version. And in the Larghetto, Katsaris demonstrates impressive rhetorical poise in the recitative-like utterances over the tremolos. As for the overdubbed two-piano version: Even before I talked to Katsaris, I could sense a slight tinge of caution brought about by the need to coordinate performances recorded at different times. But this adaptation, too, brings special insights by clarifying the orchestral details and – by giving the soloist a slightly harder surface to play off against – heightening the debate. […]. All in all, an ear-opening release.
Cyprien Katsaris is an eminent Chopin interpreter. […]. Now he gives us something truly special, the Second Concerto in four different interpretations. He bases the album on the premise that, in Chopin’s time, piano concertos were presented in four different versions: the original for piano and orchestra, one for solo piano, an arrangement for piano and string quartet or quintet, and finally a two-piano version with the orchestral part transcribed for the second piano. To render his endeavour even more interesting, Katsaris has recorded each version on a different make of piano. The subtle differences between each piano and each arrangement lend themselves to interpretations that are individual in every case. If the thought of hearing the same pianist play the Second Concerto four separate ways seems rather daunting to you, as it was to me at first, let me assure you that Katsaris has a mercurial enough musical soul to retain your interest throughout the album.
The set opens with the original concerto in a live performance featuring the distinguished Queensland orchestra […]. Katsaris draws a sparkling sound in the first movement from his Hamburg Steinway. Tempos are brisk; Katsaris doesn’t dawdle over the melodies. The overall feeling in this movement is youthful, both in its energy and its passions. […]. The second movement offers beautiful bel canto, vocally inspired phrasing from the soloist. The runs embellishing the main theme are delivered elegantly. The orchestra appropriately here plays gently, with a lovely duet for piano and bassoon. Katsaris paces the final movement somewhat deliberately, offering a mixture of virtuosity and pensiveness – even subtle agitation. The principal clarinet and bassoon are a treat. Katsaris delivers a sense of ecstatic brilliance in the coda. In sum, this is a highly worthy version of the original concerto.
For Chopin’s own arrangement of the concerto for piano solo, Katsaris has chosen a Bösendorfer Imperial piano. It features an unusually wide dynamic range and great tonal resources. […]. Katsaris has a penchant for solo piano versions of orchestral music; he was the first to record all of Liszt’s transcriptions of Beethoven’s symphonies. Hearing Chopin’s orchestral tuttis on solo piano, one is struck by how much more flexible and expressive they can sound this way. This is especially true of the second subject in the opening tutti. Freed of the necessity to keep in touch with a conductor, Katsaris finds extra possibilities in phrasing. The first movement in particular becomes more dashing than with orchestra. Their absence also makes the pedalling sound clearer in the second movement. Chopin’s realization of the string tremolo passage there feels like a nocturne for solo piano. In the finale, the Bösendorfer’s tonal lushness creates a subtext of longing, that essential romantic emotion. […].
Katsaris next presents a transcription of the concerto for solo piano and string quintet. This is a world premiere recording of the arrangement by the fine pianist David Lively […]. The fine string players are drawn from Thomas Fey’s excellent Heidelberg Symphony. The bite of the double bass has a particularly novel effect. For this performance, Katsaris has selected a Yamaha piano with a notably chocolaty tone. […]. Katsaris’ interpretation of this movement retains all its brilliance.
[Concerning the two-piano version of the Second Concerto:] In this performance, Katsaris uses a piano new to me, that of Steingraeber & Söhne of Bayreuth. […]. Employing technical wizardy, Katsaris has recorded both piano parts, which the engineers stitched together. […]. The mass of these pianos’ sounds heard together is truly thrilling, given Katsaris’ virtuosity. Not just a technical stunt, he has conceived a rendition that blends the two pianos superbly. […]. The exchanges between the two pianos in the finale are exciting, and when they blend together at rapid tempos, Katsaris’dexterity is a wonder to behold.
One must congratulate Katsaris for bringing out this project on his own CD label. I can think of very few record companies that would have been interested in it. […]. Katsaris has produced a unique collection that I would encourage every Chopin lover and piano aficionado to hear. I truly know nothing else like it.
“Seit geraumer Zeit bringt auch Cyprien Katsaris Aufnahmen und Live-Mitschnitte auf seinem Label Piano 21 heraus, die seine enorme pianistische Vielseitigkeit dokumentieren […]. Hoch originell sind die beiden Chopin-CDs, die das zweite Konzert nicht nur in vier verschiedenen Aufnahmen, sondern auch in verschiedenen Versionen anbieten. […]. Jede Version hat ihren eigenen Reiz und bringt wieder neue Facetten des Werkes hervor, so dass beim Hören nie Langweile aufkommt.”
Fono Forum (Germany)
[Bezüglich der Fassung für Klavier und Streichquintett:] Katsaris bewältigt seinen Part mit einer federnden Geschmeidigkeit, die auch für die drei anderen Aufnahmen des Konzertes charakteristisch ist. […]. Einfach bewundernswert, wie umsichtig und souverän er die Soloklavierfassung meistert, die ja Klavier- und Orchesterpart zusammenfasst. Ein Bravourstück par excellence.
Piano News (Germany), www.pianonews.de
Chopin arranged his F Minor Concerto (1830) in four versions to accommodate concert and salon venues. The most familiar remains the arrangement for piano and orchestra, here rendered in sensitive tones by Edvard Tchivzhel and the Queensland Symphony (25 June 2010) from the Concert Hall, Queensland Symphony Performing Arts Center, Brisbane. Thanks to Sound Producer Hans May, the aural reproduction on this performance truly astonishes in detail, as well in the sheer digital articulation effected by Katsaris, who proves himself a Chopiniste of the first order. In both bravura and bel canto passages, Katsaris exerts--on a Hamburg Steinway D--considerable flair and deft poetry, particularly in the middle section “recitativo” declamations. The last movement brilliantly fluctuates between rondo and broad mazurka, a form Chopin had already introduced in his Op. 5. The flute and col legno effects contribute to the precious elegance of the collaboration, swift and intrinsically acrobatic, rife with delicate poetry and national style. The concluding chords reveal an otherwise dead-silent audience which has suddenly erupted in mass appreciation for a marvelously fluent and athletic performance.
Chopin created the solo piano version of the Concerto himself, which Katsaris plays on a Bosendorfer Imperial from Tonstudio Teije van Geest, Sandhausen, Germany in July 2010. The ‘symphonic’ tuttis prove just as ornate and colorfully scored as the instrumental version, although the occasional Alberti bass line becomes more exposed. Katsaris takes the solo version more broadly than his accompanied edition, drawing out the melodic flurries and roulades with singular, plastic subtlety and panache. The first movement explosion near the coda literally hurtles forward, much in the fashion of a Liszt rhapsody. The final pages of the first movement certainly ring as symphonic declamations, potent and feverishly exciting. The fervor of the Larghetto in the solo version seems more intensely focused, the dark plaints of the “orchestra” deep and harmonically resonant. A pearly moment comes in the form of the solo keyboard’s approximation of the last movement horn call, followed by ravishing fioritura from Katsaris in both hands.
It comes as no surprise, then, that for the 2-piano version arranged by Chopin, Katsaris--through over-dubbing--performs both parts on keyboards from Steingraeber & Soehne concert grands E-272, recorded in Bayreuth, Germany August 2010. The arrangement comes from Chopin, but also from Jan Ekier and Pawel Kaminski in the first movement, and Chopin’s friend Jules Fontana for the latter two movements. Again, what luxurious playing defines these Katsaris readings of the F Minor Concerto! The last movement becomes even more meditative and introspective than the prior readings that involve the solo keyboard. The fanfare element Katsaris subdues, concentrating on the quicksilver interplay of the parts, the symphonic accompaniment now more pronounced in the manner of a Bach polyphony.
For the truly unique Piano and Quintet version made in Sandhausen, Germany in September 2010, Katsaris performs on a Yamaha CF111S whose bass tones prove notably rich, the top quite bright. The sound of the contrabass (Michael Tkacz) adds a piquant dimension to the sound, the arrangement courtesy of Franco-American pianist David Lively, given that adaptations by Chopin and his contemporaries have not survived. The concerto here sounds like an extension of works like Mendelssohn’s Sextet or the Schubert Trout Quintet, except that the color range of this work waxes more lush and fitfully dramatic. The tuttis--especially for their speed of execution in the opening Maestoso--virtually sizzle between violins Benjamin Spillner and Ariane Volm and the plaintive alto from Annette Hartmann’s viola. When Katsaris breathes his long phrases, the Bellini-inspired ariosi dance over the assorted instruments in an almost foppish nonchalance. The unusual sonority of instruments as it opens the Larghetto might be compared to the more stringent effects we hear lately in Vivaldi’s F Minor “Winter” Concerto, a novel dissonance that resolves into a love song of ardent rhetorical serenity. The reduced-orchestra tremolos of the middle section appear the more agitated and troubled, a summer storm of dire cruelty, until the clouds pass and the graduated trills dissolve into pearly tracery rife with hazy sunlight. To hear the Allegro vivace as a bravura chamber work aligns it with the Brahms First Piano Quartet or the Haydn “Gypsy” Trio for brash refinement and musically elegant sparks in the same breath.
A rare privilege to explore this familiar concerto in new guises, the set offers special merits in every sense.
“La version pour quintette à cordes a été réalisée par le pianiste David Lively. Elle bénéficie dans cet enregistrement extrêmement vivant des soins particuliers apportés par le Quintette de Heidelberg et un Katsaris absolument brillant et totalement maître des lieux. Mais, à la fin, c’est la version pour deux pianos qui, à notre avis, l’emporte. […]. Le résultat est frappant dans son homogénéité, le langage étant virtuose et passionné à souhait.”