Chopin and His Europe Festival 2010 - Jan Lisiecki at the Filharmonia, Warsaw - Evening of August 25
In previous Chopin i jego Europa Festivals this almost indecently young genius of the instrument and academic studies at school (15 years old and leaping years of formal teaching with ease and negligence) gave scintillating and idiomatic performances of both Chopin concerti.
This evening's concert featured him in Mozart (the Concerto for Two Pianos in E major KV 365) with Howard Shelley on the second instrument and conducting the fine Sinfonia Varsovia. Lisiecki's limpid style, acute articulation and sense of grace suited the music to perfection. The fact that Chopin was to follow Mozart showed perceptive programming as his stylistic origins lie there and in the counterpoint of Bach rather than Rachmaninov, Scriabin and Prokoviev as so many seem to think. There was also a pleasant Overture by Chopin's contemporary, the popular Polish composer Karol Kurpinski and the first performance in modern times of an inoffensive Piano Concerto in C major Op. 14 by a forgotten contemporary, Franciszek Lessel. He was from Pulawy and studied with 'Papa' Haydn. The final movement wonderfully evoked the perfumes and rhythm of a fashionable fin de siecle ball. It is excellent to place Chopin in his proper cultural milieu.
The Rondo a la Krakowiak in F major Op.14 was given a divine poetic opening by Lisiecki and a perfect rendering of the style brillant so beloved by the young Chopin. The Andante spianato and Grand Polonaise in E major Op. 22 came off less well to my mind. The Andante was indeed superb in control and idiomatic rendering of the climat de Chopin (so difficult to grasp) but the Polonaise lacked sparkle and forward momentum to my mind. The greatest performance I have ever heard of this work was by the Polish pianist Wojciech Switala in a recording he made some years ago for Katowice Radio - difficult to obtain.
For a great deal more on the Wunderkind Jan Lisiecki, an artist to my mind who will inherit the mantle of Artur Rubinstein see: http://en.chopin.nifc.pl/chopin/persons/detail/id/6801 and please buy his recording of the two Chopin Concerti on a modern Steinway in the new 'White Series' CD from the Chopin Institute: http://sklep.nifc.pl/?produkt=2_28&jezyk=eng
He possesses all the innate musical qualities I chime on about - he does not pound the instrument and allows the music its own poetic voice. A superb concert that had the audience shouting and cheering. Too young for this year's International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw but I predict he will eventually win this gruelling marathon.