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Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Piano Favourites vol. 2

Waltz No. 14 in E minor, Op. posth. [2:52]
Nocturne No. 5 in F sharp major, Op. 15, No.2 [3:49]
Barcarolle in F sharp major, Op. 60 [8:44]
Prelude No. 17 in A flat major, Op 28, No. 17 [3:16]
Ballade No. 3 in A flat major, Op. 47 [7:45]
Prelude No. 20 in C minor, Op. 28, No. 20 [1:56]
Berceuse in D flat major, Op. 57 [4:43]
Etude No. 13 in A flat major, Op. 25, No. 1 (Aeolian Harp) [2:43]
Impromptu No. 1 in A flat major, Op. 29 [4:38]
Mazurka No. 13 in A minor, Op. 17, No. 4 [4:40]
Nocturne No. 20 in C sharp minor, Op. posth. [4:05]
Scherzo No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 31 [11:05]
Etude No. 21 in G flat major, Op. 25, No. 9 (Butterfly) [1:18]
Waltz No. 5 in A flat major (Grande Valse), Op. 42 [3:50]
Fantasie in F minor, Op. 49 [13:40]
Idil Biret (piano)
Rec. July-September 1991, Clara Wieck Auditorium, Heidelberg, Germany, March, November, December 1990, March, September 1991, Tonstudio van Geest, Heidelberg, Germany. DDD
NAXOS 8.555799 [79:03]

 

Chopin can probably be considered to be the great pianist of his day. His works are almost exclusively for piano, mostly were conceived and written to highlight his own incredible virtuosity, and stand today as a right of passage for any aspiring pianist. The success of these masterworks demonstrates the appreciation that can be garnered for a composer and the amount of immortality that one can attain in this world.

Alas, such immortality can often breed overexposure, and when that occurs truly masterful interpretations must be achieved to warrant new compilations of his collected works. Exceptions should be made only when the true masters of the piano in their own time want to pay homage to the masters of yesteryear. If the mastery of the performance fall short the CD should never be pressed.

Idil Biret is one of those exceptional artists, however, who has earned the right to record anything that she wants to play. She has been one of the leading lights of the piano over the past 40 years, recording over 70 albums and performing with symphony orchestras all over Europe and America. This album is a compilation of her performances of Chopin’s work that she recorded in the early 1990s. While no new ground is covered by these performances, they are astoundingly good. Few pianists can do the work of Chopin justice better than Idil Biret, and each of the pieces on this collection is exquisite. Not only is this incredibly difficult material made to sound childishly easy, but its innate beauty is perfectly expressed.

The selections themselves range from the most ridiculously acrobatic of Chopin’s scherzos and waltzes to the most introspective of his Nocturnes. As such, the program is interestingly varied and well planned. The only downside is that there is very little delving into the lesser recorded work of Chopin, and as such this CD becomes less essential without casting even the slightest of disparagement upon the performances themselves.

In fact, these are among the best recordings of these mostly-overdone works that can be encountered. However, no matter how good this album is, it does cover material that a large percentage of the classical-music buying community already owns. If you do not already have 2 or 3 recordings of the collected works of Chopin, then this should definitely be put on your list of purchases. If any of the collections that you currently own have any sub-standard performances, then this album could easily supplement or replace them. It is difficult to list any album with such commonly recorded material as essential. That being said, it is difficult to find any reasons not to buy this album should you have a desire to expose yourself to the works of Chopin; these performances are among the best on the market.

Patrick Gary

 



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