Arts Blog

Youthful Chopin, youthful pianist

The Canadian pianist, Jan Lisiecki (lee-SHYETS-kee) first garnered the attention of critics in 2010 (the bicentenary of Chopin’s birth) with a recording of the Polish composer’s piano concertos. The recording caught Deutsche Grammophon’s attention, and they signed the teen pianist right away. Mozart and Schumann works soon followed. Now Lisiecki (whose parents are Polish) returns to his roots, so to speak. “Works for Piano and Orchestra” is probably the only succinct way to describe the wonderful gems to be found on the recording: the Andante Spianato & Grande Polonaise; Rondo à la Krakowiak (based on a dance from Krakow); Variations on “La Cì darem la mano”; and the Fantasy on Polish Airs. These works were all written by Chopin when he was about 19 or 20 years old, and performed by him on a grand tour of Europe at that time. The 21-year-old Lisiecki tells me (in my recorded conversation posted on this page), that he’s still in awe of this genius who could not only play such music, but create such original and challenging pieces; works which are still seldom taken up by most pianists.

I’ve heard many interpretations of these youthful works by Chopin, and each has its own character and merits. However, Lisiecki, with Polish conductor Krzysztof Urbański and the NDR Elbphilharmonie, have produced performances that show an unprecedented cohesion between soloist and orchestra, and sensitivity to the material. Lisiecki said of these pieces “The only way to make it work is to create a sound that is unanimous, which is what we achieved together.” I’m already eagerly awaiting what Mr. Lisiecki will achieve with his next endeavor.

Chopin: Works for Piano & Orchestra / Urbanski, Lisiecki, NDR Elbphilharmonie
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