Ellen Ballon & The London Symphony Orchestra – Piano Concerto No. 2 In F Minor (Chopin) (1950)

FrontCover1.JPGEllen Ballon  (October 6, 1898 – Montreal, Quebec, Canada – December 21, 1969 – Montreal, Quebec, Canada) was a child prodigy and at the age of six, in the inaugural year of the McGill Cons (1904), won the first director’s scholarship awarded at that school. She studied there with Clara Lichtenstein. As a child Ballon was praised by Josef Hofmann (whose pupil she became later, in Switzerland and again in New York), Adele aus der Ohe, and Raoul Pugno. Artur Rubinstein is said to have declared her ‘the greatest pianistic genius I have ever met’. Following a farewell recital at Royal Victoria College in Montreal 27 Dec 1906 she was sent to New York to study with Rafael Joseffy. She was a child when she made her New York debut in March 1910, playing concertos of Mendelssohn (G minor) and Beethoven (C major) with the New York Symphony under Walter Damrosch. She continued her studies in New York with Josef Hofmann and in Vienna with Wilhelm Backhaus, and when she returned from Europe to play with the New York Philharmonic under Josef Stransky (Saint-Saëns Concerto No. 4, 31 Jan 1921), she was a fully developed concert pianist. However, she continued her studies with Alberto Jonas in New York until at least 1925 and appeared again with the New York Philharmonic in the 1925-6, 1929-30, and 1932-3 seasons.

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She began her first major European tour in 1927, appearing with the Berlin Philharmonic, the Vienna Philharmonic, and the Amsterdam Concertgebouw orchestras, and then settling in London. She gave private recitals for Princesses Beatrice and Helena Victoria at Kensington Palace, appeared in public recital (eg, International Celebrity Series, 1936-7), and toured in Great Britain and Scandinavia. She returned to North America before the war and eventually settled in Montreal.Long a friend and admirer of the Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos, she performed many of his works and commissioned his Concerto No. 1, giving the premiere (1946) in Rio de Janeiro under the elenballon02composer’s direction. Ballon’s playing was rhythmically secure and, at its best, full of excitement. If her concert career fell somewhat short of the promise shown by her prodigious childhood, it may have been that she was not under pressure to prove herself – a stimulus which most successful pianists experience. She became a person of considerable wealth and was popular in social and artistic circles. In later life she made important contributions to the Faculty of Music at McGill University (where she established a piano scholarship in her own name in 1928) as a philanthropist, as a fund-raiser, and, for a short time, as a teacher. (by thecanadianencyclopedia.com)

And here´s her interpretation of Chopin´s Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21:

The Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21, is a piano concerto composed by Frédéric Chopin in 1829. Chopin wrote the piece before he had finished his formal education, at around 20 years of age. It was first performed on 17 March 1830, in Warsaw, Poland, with the composer as soloist. It was the second of his piano concertos to be published (after the Piano Concerto No. 1), and so was designated as “No. 2”, even though it was written first.

The work contains the three movements typical of instrumental concertos of the period:

Maestoso (F minor)

Chopin.jpgLarghetto (A flat major): a work of “undescribable beauty”, this music was inspired by Chopin’s distant idolization of Konstancja Gładkowska. The main theme (the “A” section) is introduced by the piano after an orchestral introduction and is later repeated twice and again, at measure 82 (the start of the coda), is enhanced by the sublime entrance of the bassoon in canon, followed by the bassoon transitioning to a counter-melody.

Allegro vivace (F minor): In the finale, the violins and violas are at one point instructed to play col legno (with the wood of the bow). For the piano, the final sections are regarded as extremely technically demanding.

Chopin’s fellow composers and Prof. Elsner’s former students, Ignacy Feliks Dobrzyński (1807-1867) and Tomasz Nidecki (1807-1852), are believed to have helped him orchestrate his piano concertos. This gave an excuse for other musicians to make slight alterations in the score. Alfred Cortot created his own orchestration of the F minor concerto and recorded it with the London Philharmonic Orchestra under John Barbirolli in 1935. Ingolf Wunder recorded Alfred Cortot’s orchestration with minor changes done by himself in 2015.

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And Ernest Ansermet was a very important Swiss conductor (Born: November 11th, 1883, Vevey, Switzerland – Died: February 20th, 1969, Geneva, Switzerland).

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Personnel:
Ellen Ballon (piano)
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The London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Ernest Ansermet

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Tracklist:

Piano Concerto No. 2 In F Minor:
01. Maestoso 11.39
02. Larghetto 8.05
03. Allegro Vivace 7.28

Music composed by Frédéric Chopin

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The cover of my issue is from UK, the label from Germany …

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Ivo Pogorelich (LSO – Claudio Abbado) – Piano Concerto No. 1 (Tchaikovsky) (1986)

FrontCover1Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23, concerto for piano and orchestra by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The work is particularly famed for the sequence of pounding chords with which the soloist’s part launches the first movement. The piece premiered in Boston, Massachusetts, on October 25, 1875.

Possessing limited piano skills, Tchaikovsky wrote the concerto intending to persuade a colleague to give the premiere performance. He first approached Nikolay Rubinstein, a pianist and the director of the Moscow Conservatory at which Tchaikovsky taught. Rubinstein condemned the work as badly written and refused to play it unless substantial changes were made. Tchaikovsky Tchaikovsky1declined to revise the piece and offered it instead to the German virtuoso Hans von Bülow, who, finding more to admire than had Rubinstein, agreed to perform it. The premiere, given during an American tour, was an immediate success, and the piece soon became equally popular in Europe. In the face of the new concerto’s undeniable success, Rubinstein withdrew his earlier criticism. He agreed to conduct the Moscow premiere and even made the concerto part of his own repertory.

The first movement opens with a bold horn call heralding a series of powerful chords from the soloist. The strings introduce an expansive theme, which is then taken up by the piano. The second movement, by contrast, is languid, with lighter use of the orchestral instruments. For the finale, Tchaikovsky offers a rondo with various alternating melodies, some of which are heard more than once, and ends by returning to the powerful driven energy of the opening. (by Betsy Schwarm)

Claudio AbbadoThere must be over 100 versions of this concerto in the catalogue by now; though many (thankfully) out of print. I must have heard and owned at least 30 of these over the years; and again half of those did not last the distance. In the end I tend to return to Gilels/Reiner or Richter/Karajan. They are not conspicuously “the best”, but the first is unashamedly virtuosic and the latter rather serious, treating it like a great work of art. Tchaikovsky can take these vagaries of treatment without damage. Too many of the other recordings sound to me like a dozen eggs in one basket.
This is where Pogo and Abbado turned out to be a surprise packet. I bought it from my old habit of filling up a hole in my collection. The pianist was very young then, but already (as I discovered) a bit of a “thinker”. He must have really thought over what he was going to do with this old warhorse on his dash into the big world of recording artists. The result is something very fresh sounding, and although the differences to routine seem slight at each point they occur, eventually they add up to a whole and unusual PressPic1perspective. This is not to be confused with eccentricity. It’s nothing more than placing emphases in novel and unexpected spots. The lyricism is the really strong factor of virtue in this recording. It is clearly heartfelt, not just doodled along, and you can hear it. None of the virtuoso passage stand out as bravura; they are never thundered, but occupy their moment in the logical flow of the whole. Climaxes are musical, a rare accomplishment!
It helps, of course, to have a magnificent instrument like the Chicago Symphony behind you, and Abbado is a very congenial and sympathetic accompanist (I mean this in general: He seems to me the ideal man at the helm in a concerto, no matter who the soloist is).
The recording is also outstanding, clear, transparent and wholly musical.
In any competition for the buyer’s purse this would have a strong claim. The music itself is, after all, a young man’s work (Tchaikovsky was about 35 then and gained his fame precisely through this concerto). Accordingly a young pianist’s view of it can’t be that far wrong, if he retains a sound musical approach and eschews pretences – the very criterion on which so many youngsters fall afoul, whereas Pogorelich is all discretion and superlative music making. So this is serious business: A recording good enough to grace a discriminating collector’s shelves that is lifted by its sheer quality out of the crowd of the many also-rans.(by Jurgen Lawrenz)

Claudio+IvoPersonnel:
Ivo Pogorelich (piano)
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London Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Claudio Abbado

BackCover1Tracklist:
01. Allegro non troppo e molto maestoso – Allegro con spirito 23.20
02. Andantino semplice – Prestissimo – Tempo I 7.45
03. Allegro con fuoco 6.40

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