Chopin & Loewe: Piano Concertos (Mari Kodama)

Chopin: Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21
Loewe: Piano Concerto No. 2 in A
Mari Kodama, piano
Kent Nagano, conductor
Pentatone SACD
Purchase via RNO Pentatone Music iTunes

Awards

Best of 2004, Audiophile Audition


Reviews

Orange County Register

Mari Kodama, in her recording of Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, is the very soul of discretion and selflessness... Her Chopin is gracefully, meticulously dispatched, filled with gentle shadings, pearly ornaments and impeccable line.... with some exquisitely observed detail, perfectly dispatched.... Kent Nagano and the Russian National Orchestra support her with judicious clarity.

American Record Guide

In Chopin's concerto Kodama combines formidable technique with an elegant touch that brings the music to wonderful life. Her virtuosity is all you could want, and her playing is crisp and clear, with lots of feeling. [In] Loewe's concerto... Kodama's sparkling pianism... and clear articulation are a constant pleasure.

Audiophile Audition

The previous recordings for this label by Kodama have been exceptional, and this one encores her superb Beethoven piano sonatas recent release. The recording... is a clever pairing of two super-virutoso piano concertos back to back. The focus of the music and the sound is directly on the piano soloist and Kodama shines brilliantly. Her fleet high-speed passage work sounds perfect and near-impossible, yet the quieter lyrical passages sing with feeling... The surround mix is very natural and involving in its capturing the ambience of the concert hall -- a far cry from Russian-made recordings we've been hearing for years.

Audio Asylum

Kodama displays the same brilliant technique and a similar propulsive and slightly detached aesthetic approach as in her Beethoven Sonata SACD... The Russian National Orchestra sounds velvety smooth and the balance and coordination between soloist and orchestra is nearly flawless throughout.

Atlanta Audio Society

Mari Kodama plays an intriguing pair of concertos... that give us a clear picture of the sort of dazzling virtuosity that audiences of the 1830s looked for, and got, from the performing composers of the day. With the capable assistance of Kent Nagano and the Russian National Orchestra, she plays Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor and Loewe's Concerto No. 2 in A major. Both concertos require, and receive, the utmost in precise phrasing and a beautiful, well-centered tone. The passagework [is] utterly brilliant... I don't think we are likely to hear a more persuasively charming Chopin Second than this.

Fanfare

In the Chopin, Kodama uses rubato judiciously, generally to mark the junctures of musical paragraphs rather than to italicize individual phrases. Her reading of the Larghetto is sensitive and delicate, and the SACD beautifully captures her gleaming tone. Kodama eases into the mazurka of the final movement, providing a smooth transition from the Larghetto and leaving the muscle flexing to the orchestra, which Nagano has now whipped into action. There are countless fine recordings of this concerto already on the market, but Kodama's should please anyone looking for a lyrical treatment that exploits the piano's many tone colors. And as far as I know, there's no competition yet in SACD format, of which this is one of PentaTone's typically velvet examples.

San Francisco Classical Voice

[Loewe’s Piano Concerto No. 2] deserves the revival. This concerto is more than a lovely vehicle for Kodama’s dextrous, bright pianism... a glittery performance, all light and delight. [Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2] has a fresh and nicely restrained approach, firm yet with the touch of the fanciful that is ingratiating.

Classics Today

Kodama's performance conveys the full measure of the [Loewe concerto's] innocent charm and lyrical elegance, while Nagano's accompaniment and some polished playing from the Russian National Orchestra follow her every step of the way. [It's] recklessly pretty music that deserves to be heard and savored.

What They’re Saying

"To present American and Russian musicians performing and teaching together at Festival Napa Valley...is precisely the kind of effort that sustains vital cultural links...at a critical time for both societies. [This] resonates with the public [and] is meaningful for the musician participants...Cultural diplomacy and music offer alternatives to contention and sustain important linkages between our societies for the long run...Now more than ever we need viable citizen-to-citizen points of contact and dialogue."

James F. Collins (Ambassador Ret.)

Senior Fellow, Russia and Eurasia Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace