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Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

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Frederic CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Preludes, Op. 28 (complete) [41:54]
Etudes, Op. 25
No. 1 in A-flat [2:55]
No. 2 in f minor [1:35]
No. 6 in g-sharp minor [2:24]
No. 12 in c minor [2:45]
Etudes, Op. 10
No. 6 in e-flat minor [3:46]
No. 4 in c-sharp minor [2:16]
No. 5 in G-flat [1:53]
Dame Moura Lympany, piano
DDD
APEX 2564 60158 2 [60:32]

Chopin composed his twenty-four Preludes, opus 28, during the period that he was also preparing a French edition of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, thus paying homage to the master of Leipzig. Like Bach, Chopin composed a prelude in each of the major and minor keys, and there the similarities end.

These works, some of which last less than one minute, are splendid gems, unique and original, each perfectly expressive of a specific mood or image, and each one saying exactly what needs to be said without a single note or gesture gone to waste. Of course, some are more famous than others, but there is not a single page of this music that is without merit.

Although there is ample opportunity for the virtuoso to showcase his or her talents, these are on the whole delicate and simple sound portraits, moving along gently from one to another like a well planned and carefully selected art exhibit. Each frame catches the mind’s eye and holds it long enough to allow the details, the nuances and each musical stroke of the brush to be examined. Then, as soon as the story is told, we walk along to the next aural image to be transported to a completely different imaginary place.

Although the Preludes require no small share of technical skill, it is in the two sets of Etudes, opp. 10 and 25, that Chopin sets out to uniquely solve a series of technical challenges. Uniquely, because not only do these works address the mastery of a certain skill, they are also complete works of music within themselves, the issues of technique cleverly disguised within splendid musical forms and memorable melodic and harmonic gestures.

I confess that before I heard this recording, Dame Moura Lympany was known to me primarily by reputation. After a listen to this performance, I can immediately see that I have been missing some outstanding piano playing. If I were to choose a single word to describe her playing, it would likely be "reflective." Oh yes, Dame Moura can tear up the keyboard when needs be, and her passagework is fleet, clean and resonant. But the joy of this recital is that she uses virtuosity solely as a means of expressing the character of the music. Nothing here is ever over the top, and this trait goes for her slow and expressive playing as well as the fast pages. This is extremely elegant playing, with not a note out of place. Completely within the bounds of immaculate taste, these recordings are a refreshing relief from the typical contest winner types of pianists who seem to play only fast and loud. It is abundantly clear that Ms. Lympany has definite ideas about what she wishes to tell us through her playing, and then, she simply invites us over for tea and tells us the story.

It is a crime that the Warner Company has dismantled the Erato label, upon which this disc originally appeared in 1995. Thankfully though, they have the good sense to make some of the fine recordings from the catalogue available and at a modest price. Program notes are informative, although a biography of the pianist would have certainly been nice. Sound quality is warm, rich and present without being overbearing.

Definitely a top choice if this is your first go at these works. If you already own them by someone else, this is worth the duplication. First rate. Highly recommended.

Kevin Sutton



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