Chopin's Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brillante
This Omaha Symphony performance was recorded live at the Holland Performing Arts Center on October 18, 2019.
Chopin's Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brillante is sure to sweep you off your feet—pianist Charlie Albright performed the sprawling work with the Omaha Symphony in October 2019. You'll also hear Maestro Bahl explain why Chopin, primarily a solo pianist, included orchestra in this work.
Ordinarily, it might be a burden to be compared to Chopin, but I think Charlie Albright has made his peace with it. Both virtuoso pianists, child prodigies, musical geniuses, AND composers (phew)… even the review quotes feel similar:
Chopin: “His final Conservatory report read: “Chopin, F., third-year student, exceptional talent, musical genius.”
Charlie: “Jaw-dropping technique and virtuosity meshed with a distinctive musicality.”
And, to top it all off, Charlie may be one of the nicest keyboard-blazing improvisation wizards out there. Rehearsing and performing Chopin’s Andante Spianato et Grande Polonaise Brillante with him back in October 2019 was a joy, and not just because his encores included a totally improvised new work for solo piano based on audience suggestion and a take on Great Balls of Fire that nearly scorched the floor underneath the grand. It was his execution of the Chopin that got me.
See, the Andante Spianato et Grande Polonaise Brillante started off as just the Polonaise in 1830 – a whirling, delightful dervish for piano and orchestra – but four years later, Chopin couldn’t shake that it seemed incomplete. He added the Andante Spianato in 1834 (new key, who cares?), and composed a short but epic little fanfare to connect the two. The Grande Polonaise is brilliant, as advertised, but it’s the Andante that steals the show. You know those rare mornings where the sun is rising, and the house is quiet because you’re the only one awake, and you just take your coffee and luxuriate in that lovely sense of timeless calm? That’s the Andante Spianato. “Spianato” means “smooth” and “even”, and you can hear it in Chopin’s writing: the left hand constantly moving but serene, the right hand effortlessly drawing out melody, a sensation not unlike watching ripples on a pond. And… the orchestra doesn’t play. At all. Our job, until that fanfare starts to announce the Polonaise, is to just enjoy those five minutes of calm with the rest of the audience.
Best seat in the house.
–Dani Meier, Vice President of Artistic Administration and Omaha Symphony Bassist
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