Top positive review
23 people found this helpful
on 2 February 2011
This concert in celebration of Chopin's birthday caught my eye immediately; both concertos in a concert given in February 2010, on the superior medium of blu-ray, and with Kissin's name prominently displayed. The maturing wunderkind plays the concerto no. 2, while Nikolai Demidenko plays the first (although they may well have been composed in the reverse order). While Demidenko might not have as elevated a profile as Kissin, he is a pianist of rare talent, some of whose recordings on Hyperion occupy a respected place in my collection.
Let me firstly dispose of the excellent Warsaw Philharmonic under Antoni Wit, who must be extremely familiar with this music and play it not only with accuracy but also with affection.
Demidenko concentrates on projecting every note clearly, and to some ears may err towards caution rather than carefree abandon. Nevertheless the fast movements of the first concerto are impressive for their immaculate fingerwork, and the slow middle movement is idyllic. His encore, a mazurka, is less buttoned-down and allows more of Demidenko's obvious affinity with Chopin's music to shine through.
Kissin may be more mature now, but he always showed an understanding beyond his years, so there is for me no great surprise in his interpretation of the concerto no.2. His technique has always been phenomenal, and here he achieves pristine fingerwork to match Demidenko, but with less apparent effort. He also uses more dynamic contrast, in a masculine display of both technique and insight into the composer's mind. The first encore, the 'revolutionary' study, seems designed to upset all wannabee pianists like myself in its accuracy and abandon, and the posthumous waltz that follows varies between limpid delicacy and controlled fury. The faces of the listening orchestra tell it all; knowing smiles, then amazement at what they are hearing and seeing.
Pictures are excellent; the hall is tastefully lit and camera direction is good. Demidenko leans out of his key light occasionally, but that's all that caught my eye.
The surround sound tracks are as good as any recording of these works that I have heard. Chopin doesn't pose too many problems for the sound engineer, no bass drum to stomp on your subwoofer or cymbals to tickle your tweeters, so he has been able to achieve a believable balance that tends to favour the strings and keep the brass in check. Piano sound is only slightly forward, to my ears more so for Kissin (who seems more inclined to use fortissimos). The audience is not totally silent but doesn't intrude, except at the end of the second concerto where their enthusiasm for Kissin leads them to applaud before the final chords have died away.
Demidenko brought a smile to my face, Kissin a tear to my eye. They are both well worth a hearing in an excellent recording.