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Briefly Noted: Seong-Jin Cho adds to Chopin set

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Chopin, 4 Scherzi / Piano Concerto No. 2, Seong-Jin Cho, London Symphony Orchestra, Gianandrea Noseda

(released on June 25, 2021)
DG 00028948604395 | 76'56"

available at Amazon
One of the best artists Deutsche Grammophon has in its catalogue these days is Seong-Jin Cho. Since winning the International Chopin Piano Competition in 2015, the South Korean pianist has been releasing a series of impressive recordings on the Yellow Label. The second of these discs devoted to Chopin appeared in 2021. Like the first installment, which paired the first of Chopin's piano concertos with the four ballades, on this one the four scherzi introduce the second piano concerto. The digital version of the album, and not the CD, contains an Easter egg of three additional tracks: the “Revolutionary” Étude (Op. 10, no. 12), an impromptu (Op. 29, no. 1) and a nocturne (Op. 9, no. 2).

Cho has formed a devoted collaboration with Gianandrea Noseda in the last few years, and the Italian conductor led the London Symphony Orchestra in these recordings of the Chopin concertos. Sadly, Cho has not played either one in his appearances with the National Symphony Orchestra (Beethoven 5 in 2017, Ravel G Major in 2019). Cho's last slated appearance with the local band, for Shostakovich 1, was canceled in March 2020 at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The pianist finally returns to the nation's capital tomorrow, to play Brahms 1 with the NSO in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall (January 12 to 14).

These recordings feature what likely rocketed Cho to the top of the Chopin Competition: a fierce technique, with strengths in speed and accuracy more than sheer power, and a poetic touch that captures the more tender and vulnerable sides of the Polish composer. His interpretation of the four scherzi emphasizes the remarkable fluidity of his fingers, and in the virtuosic demands of the concerto's outer movements he does not disappoint. To score the highest marks, however, the soloist has to give the slow movement the right expressive élan, and Cho glides through the many ornamented roulades in elegant legato, without tipping into gauzy sentimentality.

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