Recently I watched an orchestral concert from Zurich recorded some years ago. The soloist was Jan Lisiecki. He played an encore, Chopin’s Nocturne Op.48 No.1 in C Minor. The piece begins with a deceivingly simple pianissimo melody, but soon another melody in a major key insinuates itself in the bass line, barely noticeable at first, but keeps mounting with tremendous chords. The pace quickens with a formidable crescendo masterfully controlled and developed into fortissimo. At that point the piano roars and seems to explode and Lisiecki becomes a lion, a total master of the instrument. When it was over, the audience, the orchestra and the conductor were spellbound, the applause deafening and for me Lisiecki then became one of my piano heroes.
Lisiecki was a teenager at that time, a lanky boy from Calgary, very tall with bushy hair. Now he is literally conquering Europe. Deutsche Grammophon picked him out very quickly at age 15 and this is his eighth recording for the Gesellschaft, having already recorded the Concertos and the Etudes of Chopin. Now he turns to the Nocturnes, the composer’s most intimate and some of the most beautiful and best-loved pieces ever written for solo piano. Perhaps his Polish origins give Lisiecki a natural affinity to Chopin; with his youthful energy, impeccable technique, exquisite touch and profound insight he certainly does justice to these masterworks.
Some highlights are of course the famous and popular Op.9 No.2 in E-flat Major, the Op.15 No.2 in F-sharp Major with its haunting, chromatic melody and agitated mid-section, the tremendous Op.27 No.2, in D-flat Major with a grand melody and passionate outbursts, and the wistful, yearning Op.37 No.2 in G Major with its barcarolle-like mid-section and more. Happy listening!