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Georges BIZET (1838-1875)
Chants du Rhin
Nocturne (médit)
Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Piano Concerto No.1 in E minor, Op.11 (piano and string quintet version) *
Grande Valse Brillante in E flat major, Op.18
Mazurka in A flat major, Op.17, no.3
Mazurka in A minor, Op.17, no.4
Mazurka in C major, Op.24, no.2
Fantaisie in F minor, Op.49
Nocturne in D flat major, Op.27, no.2
Scherzo No.2 in B minor, Op.31
Prélude No.17 in A flat major, Op.28
Prélude No.22 in G minor, Op.28
Ballade No.3 in E flat major, Op.47
Nocturne in B major, Op.62, no.1
Étude in C minor, Op.10, no.12
Prélude No.7 in A major, Op.28
Jean-Marc Luisada, piano
Benjamin Berlioz, double-bass *
Talich Quartet *
recording dates and locations not specified
Artistes + Répertoires series
BMG FRANCE/RCA 74321 886782 [2CDs: 144:32]


BMG France has released about forty 2-CD sets devoted to various artists and musical programs under the Artistes + Repertoires banner. Jean-Marc Luisada is the latest artist to be featured. He has had a few recordings for Deutsche Grammophon including the complete Mazurkas of Chopin and Goyescas by Granados. In the U.S., Luisada has little fame, as his recordings donít often reach our shores [DS lives in the USA - LM].

Although I anticipated some fine performances on this new set, I never dreamt that I would be so impressed with Luisadaís Chopin playing. To begin with, Luisada possesses pinpoint articulation; no matter how softly he plays, each note rings out with conviction. Second, each of his Chopin performances exhibits a strong sense of improvisation, as he gives me the impression that heís thinking out his strategy as he plays. Third, Luisada is a rich-sounding pianist with gorgeous sonority.

As compelling as the above features are, the most stunning aspect of his artistry is his exploratory approach to Chopin. He uses every phrase to probe into Chopinís sound-world and psyche, also displaying a total command of the keyboardís resources.

Of course, no pianist can deliver everything, and Luisada does not offer the maximum degree of drive that is invested in much of Chopinís solo piano music. As an example, Adam Harasiewicz on Philips conveys a tremendous degree of surging momentum to the Fantaisie in F minor. In contrast, Luisada pays little attention to momentum, preferring to explore every nuance down to its core. It makes for a longer but no less striking performance. The Mazurka in A minor may well be the highlight of Disc 2 which has the Chopin solos. Luisada invests the music with a gorgeous melancholy that digs deeply into the listenerís bloodstream. Another incisive interpretation is the Prelude in A minor where he unleashes its savage energy with a vengeance.

Disc 1 presents a relatively unusual program consisting of Bizet piano music and the Piano and String Quintet arrangement of Chopinís Concerto in E minor. Naturally, Chopinís Concerto canít possibly have the same degree of power in its chamber version, but offsetting benefits of intimacy and insight into the human condition are abundant as are the workís rapture, urgency, and tension. This is an outstanding performance that surpasses the fine recording of the work by the Yggdrasil Quartet on BIS with Fumiko Shiraga on piano.

I have mixed feelings about the inclusion of the Bizet pieces. Although pleasant and well constructed, they donít hold a candle to Chopinís music for piano. "Chants du Rhin" consists of six portraits of the landscape of the Rhine, each revealing a limited range of expression. On the other hand, the music does tend to have a mesmerizing flow and recordings are few in number.

Summing up, Luisada offers highly individualized performances of Chopinís music that are essential additions to oneís music library. Intimacy, exploration, improvisation and articulation are the key ingredients that Luisada employs to greater advantage than Iíve ever heard in past Chopin recordings. This is one of the great Chopin recordings, and I urge all readers to seek out the set.

Don Satz


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