Chopin’s two concertos are all about the pianist, the slender writing for the orchestra doing little more than providing plain settings for the exquisitely cut jewels with which the soloist beguiles us. Or at least that’s what received opinion tells us. But from this CD’s opening moments, before the pianist has even played a note, you’re aware of some pretty serious re-thinking going on.
Jun Märkl really rips into the orchestral opening of the First: it’s partly a matter of balance, with the bass instruments within the orchestra given more prominence than usual, partly of telling phrasing. He’s a potent partner for Ingrid Fliter, who can make a line sing with the best of them, but who also has a certain inner steeliness, with playing entirely devoid of sentimentality. And her phrasing! That is a thing of immense subtlety and beauty, as is the liquid ease of the more virtuoso passages. Is her speed for the slow movement of the Second Concerto just too slow? Perhaps, but overall this is a superb collaborative effort, warmly recorded, that makes this a disc not only for lovers of these pieces but also for anyone who has yet to be convinced of their quality.