Chopin: Piano Concerto No 1 in E minor, Op 11; The Four Ballades

Reviewed on Wed 01 Feb, 2017

Cho's selfless playing has all the poetic imagination, freshness of new discovery and tender warmth you could wish for, allied to a bomb-proof technique that totally eschews any suggestion of flashy display.

Still in his early 20s, Seoul-born Seong-Jin Cho was winner of the 2015 International Chopin Piano Competition. Mark DeVoto was justly enthusiastic about Cho's DG anthology of live performances from that prestigious event in Warsaw (his review was posted on 25 March 2016), and I can grant just as warm a welcome to these new studio recordings. In the four magnificent Ballades Cho's playing has all the poetic imagination, freshness of new discovery and tender warmth you could wish for, allied to a bomb-proof technique that totally eschews any suggestion of flashy display – the genius of Chopin's inspiration always comes first. Set down at Abbey Road three months previously, Cho's performance of the E minor Concerto is just as impressive in its beaming affection, unhurried sense of purpose, tumbling fantasy and deftness of touch; time really does seem to stand still in the heavenly Larghetto centrepiece, while the rondo finale radiates an elegance, glitter and bonhomie that are most endearing. Gianandrea Noseda and the LSO lend marvellously sympathetic support here, and the recording is vividly realistic to match. Further discs from this outstanding young pianist are eagerly anticipated.
–Andrew Achenbach