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This well-filled disc traces the stages of the 2015 International Chopin Piano Competition in order: the first three pieces from the first round, the Ballade and Waltz from the second, Op 33 from the third and the Concerto from the finale. Intended to complement Cho’s DG recording, this actually eclipses it, presenting Cho in a fresher, more consistently inspired light. The items that have been chosen splendidly showcase Cho’s talents, as well as providing a balanced listening experience.

There is phenomenal fingerwork in the Op 10 Etudes, No 10 in particular shaped beautifully by Cho. The pianist’s tone is expertly captured by the Warsaw engineers, as is his jewel-like articulation and his superb staccato. The Fantaisie is a real exploratory adventure, almost a tone-poem; but it is the gentle aspect to the siciliano rhythms of the F major Ballade that is a real treat (as is the scintillating coda). Bright sunlight pervades the Waltz and charm exudes from the four Mazurkas of Op 33, with the final B minor piece really plumbing the emotional depths.

The Concerto is taken from the Prizewinners’ Concert and exudes a limpid sense of inevitability, with very little forced rubato. The Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra is caught fantastically in the recording; as is Cho’s jewel-like touch. The breath-held Romance gives way to a Rondo that finds incredible tenderness in amongst its strength.

Cho consistently shines light on new detail, but never self-consciously: this is playing of high intellect as well as emotion. If the DG disc was mixed, this is pure delight from first to last.

COLIN CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica


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Piano International, 2016 - ©Rhinegold Publishing