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Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Complete Nocturnes
CD 1
Nocturnes Op. 9: No 1 in B flat minor
Nocturnes Op. 9: No 2 in E flat major
Nocturnes Op. 9: No 3 in B major
Nocturnes Op. 15: No 1 in F major
Nocturnes Op. 15: No 2 in F sharp major
Nocturnes Op. 15: No 3 in G minor
Nocturnes Op. 27: No 1 in C sharp minor
Nocturnes Op. 27: No 2 in D flat major
Nocturnes Op. 32: No 1 in B major
Nocturnes Op. 32: No 2 in A flat major
CD 2
Nocturnes Op. 37: No 1 in G minor
Nocturnes Op. 37: No 2 in G major
Nocturnes Op. 48: No 1 in C minor
Nocturnes Op. 48: No 2 in F sharp minor
Nocturnes Op. 55: No 1 in F minor
Nocturnes Op. 55: No 2 in E flat major
Nocturnes Op. 62: No 1 in B major
Nocturnes Op. 62: No 2 in E major
Nocturnes Op. posth.: in E minor
Nocturnes Op. posth.: in C sharp minor
Nocturnes Op. posth.: in C minor
Ewa Bukojemska (piano)
rec. Studio S-1, Polish Radio, Warsaw, Poland, 1995. DDD
DUX 0619/0620 [64:12 + 74:17]
Experience Classicsonline

Listening to this whole set at one sitting brought home to me the sheer diversity that Chopin’s Nocturnes represent. Yes, the gentle, half-lit world of the evening is there in every piece, but while some of these evenings make us think of love and peace, some bring to mind loneliness and anxious restlessness. All are suffused with tremendous beauty, but that beauty can be troubled rather than tranquil. For ease of reading, in this review I will refer to the Nocturnes numerically rather than by Opus number and key, as that is how they are presented on this disc.
 
These performances hold up well, though in a very competitive marketplace Bukojemska will have to be more idiomatic than this to get herself noticed. Her pianism is secure and safe, which is both its blessing and its curse: a safe pair of hands (literally) rather than someone to throw fresh light on these works. The posthumous Nocturnes are included too for the sake of completeness.
 
She addresses the different tone of each work very appropriately. The ever-popular No. 2 opens with a disarmingly simple statement of the main theme which she then allows to unfold, by careful use of rubato and tone, into the achingly beautiful variant that the piece ends with. She does the same with No. 10 which is structured in the same way. She also deals most convincingly with the timeless stillness of Nos. 7 and 8 (the great Op. 27 set) as Chopin conjures up a world of ineffable melancholy. She misses some of the trouble in the less restful pieces, however. No. 15 should be genuinely unnerving while here it just sounds like it is in a bad mood. The great C minor Nocturne (No. 13) is more successful in this respect, with a troubled undercurrent hiding beneath a calm surface.
 
This CD is very obviously a Polish product, and I suspect that Dux are a Polish label: all of the production team for this disc are Polish and there is an unspecified connection with Polish Radio. The biographical note for Bukojemska also tells us that she studied in Krakow and most of her collaborators have been Polish. The information in the booklet is in Polish first and then English, and the producers are clearly very proud of Chopin as their national composer. It is fitting, then, that Bukojemska is probably most successful in the most Polish sounding number: the spiky No. 12 with its connotations of folk rhythms. The booklet note has not been particularly well translated into English, however, and the enthusiastic analysis of the Nocturnes is very difficult to read. Presumably the Polish version makes more sense!
 
So this is a fine set if you’re starting off your exploration of the Nocturnes and want a “standard” interpretation, but I can’t see much future for it in light of the fierce competition from the likes of Rubinstein, Horowitz and, perhaps most appealingly, Maria João Pires on DG. Barenboim and Arrau also have very appealing complete sets at bargain price, which are a better bet than this one.
 
Simon Thompson
 

 


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