Ingrid Fliter - Scottish Chamber Orchestra - Chopin: Piano Concertos - Gramophone

Ingrid Fliter received rave reviews for her two all-Chopin discs for EMI - that of the Waltzes (12/09) remains among the best of many rivals - so how does she fare on this, her first recording since singing with Linn?

Within a couple of pages (after a lithe and poised account of the E minor's lengthy orchestral introduction) I was hooked. Why? Listen to the conversational effect she brings to the passage at 5'50" - the same configuration repeated four times - which are generally played with little differentiation. Fliter makes them immediate and personal and, when followed by the heard-achingly lovely second subject at 6'38", all resistance is futile. True, she sails perilously close to over-sentimentalising the opening of the Romanza. For me, no one has ever surpassed Josef Hofmann (fluffs and all) in his live radio recording from 1938, but Fliter plays with such grace and heartfelt sincerity - abetted by some lovely duetting with the SCO's bassoonist - that, again, I was quickly won over.

The F minor is, if anything, even finer, notable for the icy chill she and the SCO strings bring to the dramatic central section of the Larghetto (note the cleanly articulated contributions of the basses). The finale, like that of the E minor, dances with joyful buoyancy, Fliter reminding us how much of it Chopin asked to be played pp, ppp and leggieramente, requests to which not all pianists are so alive. The point is, if an artist cannot engage your emotions in the oft-recorded, oft-heard music then they might as well go away and breed chickens. Fliter, by whatever magical means, touches the heart.

04 March 2014