The National Institute Frederyck Chopin has already released a massive box set of Chopin's complete works performed on instruments of the composer's time, and that included recordings of both of these concertos with Frans Brüggen and the Orchestra of the 18th Century; the Dutch musicians have become regular visitors to the Chopin and His Europe festival in Warsaw each summer. The institute has now released another period-instrument disc of the concertos with the same conductor and orchestra, but the soloist this time is Yulianna Avdeeva, the highly rated winner of the most recent International Chopin Piano Competition, which took place in the Polish capital in 2010.
For the recordings Avdeeva plays a renovated Erard piano built in Paris in 1849, reckoned to be practically identical to instruments that Chopin knew and played. For its sound alone, it's a fascinating document; the Erard, with its lean, incisive lower register and a crisply defined treble that has just a hint of percussive edge, is wonderfully profiled against the vibrato-free string textures of the orchestra so that not a single detail is missed. But these performances are much more than exercises in historical reconstruction, however intriguing the soundworld they create. Avdeeva's recital appearances in Britain have yet to demonstrate why her competition victory created such a stir, but there's no doubt of the quality of the artistic imagination at work here.
Whether it's in the bold, dramatic shapes that she creates in the first movements of both works, the energy with which she propels the two finales, or the spellbinding beauty of her playing in the central Larghettos, their tracery delicately crystalline and their lyricism airy and unfettered, there seems to be a real spontaneity about Avdeeva's approach. It's as if by performing these works on a very different instrument from the usual modern concert grand she's discovering a new range of possibilities, a new palette of keyboard colours. Her performances may not quite rival the all-time classic versions on record, but they do offer fresh and hugely rewarding alternatives. (The Guardian)