This exceptionally refined artist can take his place among the luminaries who have won the Chopin Competition, including Martha Argerich, Maurizio Pollini and Krystian Zimerman.
I watched the 2015 International Chopin Piano Competition daily on YouTube and followed Seong-Jin Cho with great interest. I had my favourites, Charles Richard-Hamelin chief among them (and runner up), but Cho's wonderful musicianship won the jurors' hearts.
He has exceptional technique and musical aesthetic. Throughout the competition, no stage fazed him. He was like a musical freight train -- inexorable. Even Hamelin's iron clad technique and nerve couldn't compete. In the end, Cho edged it. The Chopin was his.
It's way too early to tell whether this young man will take over the mantle of Argerich and Zimerman. But from this end, he's much closer than not. Especially on this evidence -- The concerto holds no difficulties for him. He dispatches it almost easily, but with obvious aplomb.
We've been discussing the accompanists on these new DG recordings. The producers must love Cho as he, like another recent DG artist, Lisa Batiashvili [reviewed here] gets a Rolls Royce orchestra and conductor. The LSO conducted by Gianandrea Noseda. They are the most supportive musicians.
It's pretty well de rigueur that a Chopin winner records the Chopin 1. Argerich did it with the same orchestra, label, but with Abbado. It's a cracker. This is a little more reticent, but still with lots of passion and beautifully played.
For good measure, Cho adds the Four Ballades. These are magnificent. Many times, the rhapsodic nature of the music gets the better of the artist and performance. These are rock solid in technique yet ebb and flow like Arthur Rubinstein. You could not ask for more.
The recording is spectacular. A couple of sessions at Abbey Road for the concerto and the participants sound beautifully balanced with glowing instrumental tone.
His interpretations of the Ballades were recorded in September at the Friedrich-Ebert-Halle in the Hamburg borough of Harburg. They glow and sparkle. They sound equal to the Abbey Road recording.
DG really does have a house piano sound. Barenboim, Cho and other DG piano artists get superb engineering.
Interestingly, Cho is still focused on his studies.
"Since 2012 Seong-Jin Cho has lived in Paris and has been continuing his studies at the Paris Conservatoire with Michel Béroff. He signed an exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon in February 2016. “I am very happy with my first studio recording for the yellow label,” he notes. “This was such a rewarding experience for me and I am so pleased now to be able to share it with others.”
Student or artist, no matter. This CD is exceptional and is very highly recommended.
Piano Concerto No. 1
London Symphony Orchestra
1 CD / Download 00028947959410
Int. Release 25 Nov. 2016