US-based Frederic Chiu
possesses a melting tone and high level
of musicianship. Intelligent programming
means that the set of 12 Etudes,
Op. 25 has been separated from its Op.
10 Siamese twin and placed in the context
of several later, and much-loved, works.
This makes for a nice change from the
norm; Op. 10 appeared on HMU907201,
coupled with the four Rondos.
The actual recording
is exemplary. Warm and with all the
depth one requires, Producer/Engineer
Brad Michel should be congratulated.
Chiu’s reading of Op.
25 is something of a curate’s egg. The
fluent right-hand in No. 2, the considered
use of pedal in No 8, the cheeky close
to No. 9, the contrast between No. 10’s
stormy double-octaves and its oasis
of repose middle section and a nicely
shaped No. 12 all lie in the credit
column. On the debit side stand under-played
lower voices in No. 1, stabbed-at melody
in No. 3 and a No. 5 that sounds for
all the world as if it is straight out
of the practice room ... and not just
because Chiu takes it at half speed.
The Trois Nouvelles Etudes are
more successful, strangely. The first
has a particularly Chopinesque sense
of nostalgia, while the delicate Second
complements the shifting Third.
is one of Chopin’s loveliest pieces.
Chiu is very sensitive here; similarly
in the Barcarolle, where he shapes
the work towards a nice climax.
It was a brave choice
to end with one of Chopin’s most elusive
masterworks, the Polonaise-Fantaisie,
Op. 61. Actually, Chiu has the measure
of the piece, understanding Chopin’s
enlarged canvas well and showing a laudable
aversion to rushing. It is this performance
that gives the most hope for Chiu.
have apparently likened Chiu to Glenn
Gould. Both pianists favour crystal-clear
textures, it is true, but Chiu is not
to Chopin what Gould was to Bach; that
much is certain. Chiu is one of those
pianists who gained attention by not
winning a competition – his elimination
from the 1993 Van Cliburn Competition
before the final round created a stir.
It is true that there is evidence here
of independent thought, which is always
refreshing; especially these days. He
already has an extensive discography
on Harmonia Mundi. I shall be watching