Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Frédéric Chopin - Nocturnes, Études, Waltzes, Piano Concertos

2005; 19 tracks
Maurizio Pollini, pianist

Maurizio Pollini is one of my 4 favorite pianists in the world (the other three are naturally Zimerman, Michelangeli and Berezovsky). His interpretations of Chopin, as shown in these 19 Nocturnes, is literally unprecedented. His style is robust, tender, and absolutely 100% perfect. While listening to his playing of Chopin's most beautiful solo piano pieces, I never have to question why he made this or this choice regarding the sound - he plays Chopin so flawlessly and elegantly that no amount of "affectation" is needed. He plays not for the audience, but for form - true form, that of the Romanticists and of the true Chopin-admirer. Nocturne Op. 27, No. 1 is my favorite of them all, it is a scene of murder and moonlight and the whisking away to heaven's gates after death. Only Pollini can pull this off so well. I highly, highly recommend this recording.


1990; 24 tracks
Vladimir Ashkenazy, pianist

Ah, Ashkenazy. He is wonderfully technical and precise, but I've always sensed a rather off-putting lack of emotion in his interpretations. Perhaps I have just never cared for him... but in any case, you would be hard pressed to find a finer recording of the Études than this. These are marvelously mechanical (not in such a negative way), truly exemplifying the wondrous abilities of a fine-tuned piano and a master of technique. Chopin himself was a pianist of great talent, and these virtuosic pieces (pieces intended for private study but are so beautiful that they are played in concert halls) showcase every important technique a student must learn to master the piano. That is why these are so often taught to students of the piano, they are "Studies" (Études) of important techniques. As a student of piano, I can say that these pieces are tremendously difficult, requiring the skill of a very mature pianist. Oh my god I'm rambling now. Listen to this and tell me if Étude Op. 25, No. 12 in C minor, the very last track, doesn't absolutely fucking blow your mind.


2010; 19 tracks
Alice Sara Ott, pianist

The Waltzes of Chopin are utterly timeless, and indeed essential to the understanding of his works as a whole and, in a way, Romanticism itself. I don't believe Ott plays unremarkably, but she takes too many liberties with Chopin's work (the "Grande Valse Brilliante" makes me so mad, but whatever). This doesn't detract from the lovely energy she exudes in these pieces, however. Ott's version of the Waltzes are very enjoyable to listen to, very lustrous and full of life.


1999; 6 tracks
Krystian Zimerman, pianist / Polish Festival Orchestra

God, I love these. Chopin should have written more for orchestra. Zimerman is amazing as always. <3



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