Frederic CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Piano Sonata No. 3 in B minor Op 58 (1844)
Andante maestoso [10.07]
Scherzo: Molto vivace [2.51]
Largo [9.02]
Finale: presto [5.26]
Polonaise-Fantaisie in A flat major Op 61 (1846) [13.42]
Ballade No. 4 in F minor Op 52 (1842-43) [11.44]
Andante spianato et Grande Polonaise brillante in E flat major Op 22 (1836) [15.15]
Ingolf Wunder (piano)
rec. Funkhaus Berlin Nalapastrasse, Saal 1, 2/2011
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 477 9634 [68.09]

Ingolf Wunder, a pupil of Adam Harasiewicz, achieved some fame when he came second at the Chopin international piano competition in 2010. Many experts thought Wunder should have won. It was as a result of this controversy that he was given a contract with Deutsche Grammophon. For his first CD, Wunder has elected for a selection of Chopinís most famous masterpieces some of which he played during the competition.

Wunder is more of a poet of the piano than a firebrand although he clearly has an excellent technique. He has an exceptionally beautiful tone and makes a good job of the opening movement of the Third sonata showing some exquisite phrasing and close attention to detail. The soaring sostenuto second subject is taken too slowly for my taste with Wunder languishing a little too much in this very expressive piano writing. The scherzo has all the necessary turbo-charged propulsion that one could wish for while Wunder maintains his exquisite crystalline tone. The trio section is a little sluggish although there the highly expressive underscoring of the modulations is notable. The largo slow movement is absolutely glorious with Wunder relishing the changing kaleidoscope of harmonies, colours and textures. His finale is accomplished and polished although perhaps a little too polite to be among the great performances - compare Argerichís fireworks or Percy Graingerís wonderful account.

Wunder was awarded a special prize at the Chopin competition for his Polonaise-Fantaisie, and on the evidence of this disc I can see why. His performance brings out the workís wonderful poetic sensibility, and there is some exquisitely judged rubato and flexible phrasing. Chopinís F minor Ballade is another pinnacle of the piano repertoire. Wunder brings an intensity of feeling to the work while drawing out the contrapuntal textures and maintaining Chopinís long melodic lines. The coda could perhaps have been more incendiary although the playing is well phrased and textured.

The low point is the last work on the disc. The Andante Spianato has a translucent dreamy quality but lacks expressive detail in some of the more reflective passages. The Grande Polonaise is polished but a little pedestrian when compared with Krystian Zimmermannís spirited account.

Mr Wunder is a fine pianist with a great future although he perhaps needs to think carefully about repertoire which suits his particular gifts.

Robert Beattie

A fine pianist with a great future who needs to think carefully about repertoire which suits his particular gifts.