Recorded on 11/10/2010, uploaded on 04/27/2011
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
A chamber version of Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Op. 11.
From an interview with the pianist in this recording, Daniel Del Pino:
"In Chopin's time, it was quite common to have this salon type of setting, even for a performance of a piano concerto - they probably would have played it with whichever musicians were available at a specific moment. There is, however, no original arrangement by Chopin for such an ensemble. There are a few arrangements for string orchestra and piano, or string quintet and piano, some of them by famous pianists who were contemporaries of Chopin - pianists such as Kalkbrenner to whom Chopin dedicated his first piano concerto."
"For our version, we used as a base a recent arrangement for piano and string quartet by Kominek, but since some of the parts were not faithful to the extent we wished, we used also the original orchestral score and some bass reinforcement from the piano in the tuttis. So, the sources for our version are Chopin's own orchestral score, Kalkbrenner's version for piano and string quintet, and mostly Kominek's version."
"I heard a long time ago about these arrangements for less than full orchestra, but it wasn't until I was engaged to play the Second Concerto with the Monterey Symphony Orchestra that I thought it would be a nice run-through to play it with some of my chamber music students. It came out very nicely, and so we began suggesting it to presenters who were very interested in this version."
"The good thing about this version is that you can become much more aware of the details - you can really hear the different voices. Often, with a full orchestra, you can only hear a cushion of sound, with some parts being neglected. Also, with a quartet, the piano doesn't have to force the sound to be louder. Chopin didn't like big sonorities and big halls, he was much more into intimate atmospheres, so I think this is closer to what he had in mind than a big orchestra in a big hall."
When asked about the differences and demands on the players performing the string quartet rather than full orchestra version, Mr. del Pino replied:
"The main difference is that you don't have a conductor so you have to conduct and play. When an orchestra is not completely together, you might not notice too much... when a quartet is not together, you hear it immediately. It's a much more delicate performance. On the other hand, there are certain liberties that are difficult to take with forty people trying to follow you, with four it's somehow possible. The last difference is that with a string quartet, in the tutti sections, we can miss the bass - that's why I add the bass in my piano part, a little bit in the "continuo" style of the Baroque and Classical period."
Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor Frédéric Chopin
Chopin wrote only a handful of pieces for piano with orchestra and all those (with the exception of the Andante spianato introduction to the Grande polonaise brilliante, op. 22) before his arrival in Paris in 1831, surprising considering that his output was entirely dominated by the instrument. Among these few works are his two piano concertos, the first in E minor and the second in F minor, composed during 1829-30. This, however, is their published order and even though the E minor Concerto was published first in 1833, it was actually the second to be composed, following swiftly on the heels of the completion of the F minor Concerto. Once the E minor Concerto was completed, Chopin performed it in several “farewell” concerts before leaving his native Poland for Vienna and eventually Paris.
Adhering to Classical tradition, Chopin begins the Concerto in E minor with an extended exposition for the orchestra, delaying for some time the entrance of the soloist. The first theme, of an unusually Classical cut, consists of two ideas—a motif surging upward though the tonic triad followed by a more plaintive melodic line. Quite exceptionally, the second theme, at each of its instances in the double exposition, is announced in the key of E major. When reprised in the recapitulation later in the movement, this theme occurs in the key of G major. In essence, Chopin has here used a key scheme that is backwards from Classical tradition. The development section, as is usual with Chopin’s sonata forms, is intense, drawing on motives from the exposition. At the conclusion of the movement, there is no cadenza per se but a final flourish in the piano leads into the orchestra’s last statement.
The tranquil second movement in E major, labeled a “Romanze,” is the gem of the entire work. A delicate Larghetto, the movement’s principal theme is announced in the piano accompanied only in part by the soft sounds of muted strings. As the melody unfolds, it becomes ever more ornamented, adding to its increasing charm. Only a brief middle section in the relative minor provides of point of contrast to this beautiful middle movement.
The finale begins aggressively with octaves from the entire string section, but only to give way to a playful tune in the piano that becomes the refrain of the movement’s rondo form. Despite this initial lightheartedness, the movement is not without its more serious moments, alternating between the two tempers and leaving the listener to wonder if the seriousness is not really just part of the fun and games. Nevertheless, the finale’s innate liveliness and energy drive the concerto towards its conclusion and in large, sweeping gestures piano and orchestra together bring the piece to a spirited ending. Joseph DuBose
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