Dancing Chopin

A review by Marek Zebrowski

Commemorating the centenary of regaining Poland’s independence, during the second half of November the Polish National Opera Theatre in Warsaw presented a spectacle, “Nasz Chopin/Notre Chopin,” featuring the Polish National Ballet dancing to live performances of Chopin’s Piano Concertos in E and F minor with pianist Krzysztof Jabłoński and Grzegorz Nowak leading the Polish National Opera Orchestra. The world premiere of this program took place on November 17, 2018.

The first half of the program featured Chopin’s Op. 11 Concerto to aristocratically spare and classically elegant choreography by Liam Scarlett. The Concerto’s long lines and grandiose climaxes—especially in the first movement—were beautifully set to music and convincingly delivered by the dancers. Lyrical second movement received touching interaction of pairs of dancers and the Krakowiak finale was dispatched with much grace and élan.

After the interval, the F minor Concerto’s dramatic first movement narrative was aptly captured by Krzysztof Pastor’s dynamic and expressive choreography. The romantic tenderness of the Larghetto second movement was nicely juxtaposed by vigorous, duel-like ensembles in the movement’s central section famous for its evocative tremolos. The finale—a tender Mazurka—was stylishly danced with a crescendo leading all the way up to the final solo horn call; thereafter a happy chase culminated in a thoroughly brilliant conclusion.

Krzysztof Jabłoński demonstrated a masterful command of the very challenging material, for performing two Chopin concerti in one evening is a feat only a few pianists could match. Assured touch, exquisite pedaling and delicate color shadings made the music glimmer with gentle light under Jabłoński’s able fingers. Grzegorz Nowak vigilantly followed the soloists—those dancing onstage as well as the pianist—with a well-balanced and truly refined accompaniment. It was an evening to remember indeed.