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Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Grande Valse Brillante in E flat major, Op.18
Grande Valse Brillante in A flat major, Op.34 No.1
Valse in A flat major, Op.69 No.1
Valse in E flat major, Op.Posth.
Fantasie-Impromptu in C sharp minor, Op.66
Nocturne in B major, Op.62 No.1
Nocturne in C sharp minor, Op.Posth.
Nocturne in D flat major, Op.27 No.2
Nocturne in E flat major, Op.9 No.2
Polonaise in A flat major, Op.53 ‘Heroic’
Mazurka in A flat major, Op.24 No.3
Mazurka in F major, Op.68 No.3
Mazurka in B flat minor, Op.24 No.4
Mazurka in B flat major, Op.17 No.1
Scherzo No.2 in B flat minor, Op.31
Artur Pizarro (piano)
Recorded at Potton Hall, Suffolk, 17-24 June, 2004
LINN CKD 248 [79’02]


These sorts of miscellaneous recitals can be a good foil to the many ‘complete editions’ that we are all fond of collecting. You can sit back and enjoy a voyage through the many facets of Chopin’s genius, and if it’s well picked, you are guaranteed plenty of contrast and changes in mood.

That’s what Artur Pizarro tries to give us here. The title gives away his motivation; this is a trip through his childhood, sharing with us pieces he heard as well as learnt in his formative years. It’s like the reopening of a dusty piano stool to find the old dog-eared copies whose front covers and inner pages are imprinted indelibly on the memory.

Well, enough of the misty-eyed nostalgia – the question is, does it work objectively as a varied Chopin recital at full price, especially as there are loads of this sort of thing littering the catalogue. Well, there is a great deal to enjoy, as well as some rather mannered touches. The sound is certainly spectacular, with the distinctively rich bass and bright upper register of his favoured Blüthner grand beautifully caught by the Linn engineers. Pizarro’s playing itself is interesting and makes you take notice. His Beethoven sonata cycle rather divided critics, with some of his original, even quirky, phrasing and tempi not to everyone’s taste. Some of that creeps in here; the slow music is very slow, as in the first two of his Nocturne selection, where Pizarro’s very steady tread sends us into a trance-like atmosphere where Chopin’s searching harmonies seem forward looking. That’s if you’re being charitable, but you could argue that the D flat Nocturne that follows nearly suffocates from being loved to death in this way.

The faster, fiery pieces come off quite well, though having just listened to the controlled virtuosity of Nikolai Demidenko in the Scherzos (Helios) I found Pizarro’s approach in No.2 decidedly ordinary. I would have liked more light and shade in the Waltz selection, but his Mazurkas are excellent, as is his passionate rendition of the famous Polonaise. Indeed, this could be, for me, the pick of the disc, with the pent-up tension and superbly even left hand octaves making for thrilling listening.

I suppose it may depend on whether you’re a fan of the artist here, or indeed his personal selection, but if you are you will be treated to a gorgeous piano sound which, I’m reliably informed, is even more seductive and spectacular in SACD format.

Tony Haywood

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