Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849) Great Pianists - Cortot: Volume 4
Piano Sonata No.2 in B flat minor Op.35 (1839) [17:01]
Piano Sonata No.3 in B minor Op.58 (1844) [23:22] Six Chants Polonaise Op. 74 (arr. Liszt S480/R145)
No. 2. Frühling (Wiosna, Spring) [2:34]
No. 3. Das Ringlein (Pierscien, The Ring) [2:05]
No. 5. Mein Freuden (Moja pieszczotka, My Joys) [3:23]
Grande Polonaise Brillante, Op. 22 [4:49]
Polonaise No. 6 in A flat major, Op. 53, "Heroic" [6:30]
Polonaise No. 7 in A flat major, Op. 61, "Polonaise-fantasie" [9:43]
rec. London, June and December 1928 (Sonata No.2); July 1933
(Sonata No.3); March 1939 (Chants Polonaise); Camden, New
Jersey, February 1923 (Grande Polonaise); London, July 1933
(Polonaise No.6) and London, 1947 (Polonaise No.7) NAXOS 8.111065 [69:28]
is the fourth of a five-volume series devoted to Cortot’s
Chopin on 78. It spins a surprise, and a very welcome one,
in disinterring the least well known of the pianist’s traversals
of the Sonata in B flat minor.
As with the Ballades in the fifth volume we hear a seldom-reissued
performance, here from 1928, in preference to the oft-heard
The copy used is a touch noisy but never enough to impede
the magnificence – and individuality – of the conception
and execution. The recording was not, even for the time,
especially good. Jonathan Summers’s notes relate that the
majority of sides emanated from the relatively poor Kingsway
Hall sessions and not from those held in the acoustically
preferable C studio of the Small Queen’s Hall. This, however,
is a relative matter and can be sublimated by virtue of the
performance – noble, dashing, passionate, colouristically
a little compromised by the recording quality (about which
nothing can be done now) but triumphant.
The 1933 Third Sonata had previously been recorded in 1931;
an earlier 1930 Parisian attempt had been unsuccessful. This
is an even better performance than the companion sonata.
Cortot moderates between the expressive poles of the sonata
with the most daring and passionate of rubati. His tone remains
singing and here the better recording quality really tells,
allowing the subtlety of colouration to be heard. In the
context of this level of playing the familiar wrong notes – especially
in the Largo – are of little account.
The three Chants Polonais include one never issued
at the time on 78 – My Joys. Then there is the acoustic and
abridged Grande Polonaise Brillante recorded in Camden,
New Jersey in 1923 – and recorded let me add very well indeed. Regarding
the Polonaise No. 7 in A flat major, the "Polonaise-fantasie" one
should note that this has also been issued on APR 5571 in
their series devoted to Cortot’s post-War sides. This Obert-Thorn
transfer sounds very much better than the rival work and
is strongly to be preferred. The performance itself is less
captivating and exciting than the pre-War selection.
This has been a first class series and Cortot admirers need
have no doubt that the five single discs represents a valuable
repository of some of the most charismatic and resourceful
Chopin playing on record.
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