'Mari Kodama who numbers Brendel and Tatiana Nikolaeva among her teachers, is an impressive soloist happy to note-spin with all the required ease and facility in the Loewe and to provide a good deal more in the Chopin.' Gramophone
The programme of the CD at hand may appear odd at first, perhaps even a little wilful - however, it is at least exciting and pianistic jewels displayed upon a luxurious silken orchestral carpet. Nothing more, but also nothing less: for an in-depth discussion about the status and value of the works in the piano-concerto genre does not arise, as neither work is based on the Classical symphonic concerto (with its ingenious dialogue structures between the soloist and orchestra as equal partners) which had already been elaborated upon and perfected by Mozart and Beethoven. These compositions are much more representatives of the Virtuoso Concerto genre, where nothing must distract the listener from the playing of the soloist. Here, the duty of the orchestra is simply to increase the excitement of the public with regard to the longed-for entrance of the soloist by first presenting an extensive orchestral exposition, and then providing melodic and harmonic support in the further course of the brilliant solo part.
According to the opus number, Frédéric Chopin‘s Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21 is his second in the genre, however, this is the first piano concerto composed by the Polish poet of the piano. The three-movement work was written in the year 1830 and was given its première on March 17 that year in Warsaw by the composer himself, in a performance which was customary of the times: following the first movement, an Overture by Josef Elsner and a divertimento for hunting horn was squeezed in... (a system difficult to comprehend for contemporary concert-goers, as well as for our understanding of the work as a whole!) All typical Chopinesque characteristics are audible in the F-minor Concerto, however, they are presented in an interwoven manner, not in isolation: the nationalistic style, the glittering pianistic technique and the truly romantic expressivity. In the first movement (Maestoso) the orchestra displays the thematic material of the movement in an extensive exposition, before the piano enters upon the scene in an impressive cascade of semiquavers. After the development, which is full of modulations and dominated by the solo instrument and a sextuplet motif, the abbreviated recapitulation takes over, before the orchestra completes the movement. The three-part Larghetto is one of the most poetic movements written by Chopin; here, the melodies flow forth in an apparently endless stream over the floating harmonies of the orchestra. The Finale (Allegro vivace) is a fascinating and brilliant Mazurka. Pianistic glitter and virtuoso playing is audible everywhere.
The fact that the instrumental works - and especially both piano concertos - by Carl Loewe (1796-1869) do not appear even in more recent anthologies, is not necessarily an indication of the value placed on these pieces in the history of music. It is just that, so far, they have not managed to conquer their own place in concerto repertoire. Loewe‘s compositional capabilities, his indisputable class is demonstrated mainly in the vocal field, especially in the ballad and the Lied. In these dramatic miniatures, he united the principles of through-composition and sonata form in a most effective and especially innovative manner, whereas in his much larger concerto works, he stressed the virtuoso side of the soloist's part, which was not necessarily bound to any certain form. We know that he himself gave the première of his Piano Concerto in A, which is available in manuscript form, on March 10, 1831 in Berlin. As he wrote: "Hereupon followed my Concerto in A for pianoforte with orchestral accompaniment. The excellent orchestra had the opportunity to compete with me." From these few lines, we learn a lot about the work, which is composed along major lines and lasts for half an hour: accordingly, the orchestra has purely an accompanying role, while the soloist is given a free hand to show his skill. And the term "compete" refers to the exclusively virtuoso character of the concerto accompanied by large orchestra. The encyclopaedia MGG describes the piano part as "overloaded with passage-work". And truly, here the soloist literally has his hands full. In the middle movement, Andante grazioso, the orchestral parts are limited to strings and wood-winds, in order not to hinder the melodic development of the piano.
English translation: Fiona J. Stroker-Gale
Recording Producer: Wilhelm Hellweg
Executive Producer: Job Maarse
Balance Engineer: Erdo Groot
Recording Engineer: Roger de Schot
Editing: Holger Busse, Sebastian Stein
Recorded February 2003 at the Concert Hall of the Moscow Conservatory.
Special thanks to Sandrine Georgel and the Orchestre National de Lorraine, Metz, France for providing the music of the Loewe concerto.