Sunday, May 7, 2017

Frédéric Chopin - Piano Concerto No. 1; Ballades (Seong-Jin Cho)


Composer: Frédéric Chopin
  1. Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 in E minor, Op. 11: I. Allegro maestoso
  2. Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 in E minor, Op. 11: II. Romance. Larghetto
  3. Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 in E minor, Op. 11: III. Rondo. Vivace
  4. Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23
  5. Ballade No. 2 in F major, Op. 38
  6. Ballade No. 3 in A Flat major, Op. 47
  7. Ballade No. 4 in F minor, Op. 52

Seong-Jin Cho, piano
London Symphony Orchestra
Gianandrea Noseda, conductor (1-3)

Date: 2016
Label: Deutsche Grammophon



I don’t know how many recordings of Chopin’s E minor Concerto there are. The Deutsche Grammophon label alone has nearly 20 available, ranging from Anda, Argerich and Askenase to Wunder, Yundi and Zimerman. Whether or not the considerable merits of this newcomer are enough to win a permanent place alongside its distinguished stablemates only time will tell. It certainly has a lot going for it: the pianist is the winner of the 2015 International Chopin Competition, and the conductor is the newly appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the LSO.

It is Noseda who sets the tone of the performance with an introduction that is full of purpose and not a little swagger. This is no journeyman’s accompaniment but, throughout, one which consistently resolves to make Chopin’s oft-derided orchestral writing important and telling. As to the young Korean Seong-Jin Cho, whose first studio recording this is (his first for DG, another all-Chopin programme, was of live performances from the Competition finals – 2/16), it is not so much his effortless clarity and articulation or lightly pedalled fioritura that capture the attention as much as his ability to let the music breathe. Every time the first movement’s ineffably lovely second subject returns, it becomes more poignant in Cho’s hands. His phrasing here and in the Romanza is truly heart-melting and if the last movement is marginally less special than its predecessors, that hardly counts against this memorable interpretation.

The four Ballades, too, while never in my opinion benefiting from being heard in sequence, have an authority and assurance that compels attention. Are the opening pages of No 1 a tad self-conscious, striving too much for effect? I thought so. But listen to the magical opening of No 2, the deft highlighting of the contrapuntal lines in No 3 (a masterly reading) and the controlled impetuosity of No 4 and you are left in no doubt as to why the jurors in Warsaw voted as they did.

-- Jeremy NicholasGramophone

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Frédéric Chopin (22 February or 1 March 1810 – 17 October 1849) was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist of the Romantic era who wrote primarily for the solo piano. He gained and has maintained renown worldwide as one of the leading musicians of his era, whose "poetic genius was based on a professional technique that was without equal in his generation". Chopin's music, his status as one of music's earliest superstars, his association (if only indirect) with political insurrection, his love life and his early death have made him a leading symbol of the Romantic era in the public consciousness. His works remain popular, and he has been the subject of numerous films and biographies of varying degrees of historical accuracy.


Seong-Jin Cho (born 28 May 1994 in Seoul) is a South Korean pianist. He graduated Yewon School and Seoul Arts High School in Korea. Currently he is a student of Michel Beroff at the Paris Conservatoire. He won several prestigious competitions such as First prize of the 2008 International Fryderyk Chopin Competition for Young Pianists, Third prize of the 2014 Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition, and First prize of the latest 2015 XVII International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw. In February 2016 Cho signed an exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon, with his first studio album released in November.


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