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MusicWeb has suspended the sale of Concert Artists discs until it can be resolved which were actually recorded by Joyce Hatto


Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Scherzo no. 2 in b flat, op. 31, Mazurkas: f, op. 7/1, A flat, op. 17/3 [not B flat, op. 17/1 as stated on cover], b flat, op. 24/4, c sharp, op. 30/4, D, op. 33/2, c sharp [not e as stated on cover], op. 41/1, Introduction and Rondo in E flat, op. 16, Waltzes: A flat, op. 42, c sharp, op. 64/2, A flat, op. 64/3, e, op. Posth, Nocturne in D flat, op. 27/2, Etudes: G flat, op. 10/5, F [major, not minor as stated on cover], op. 10/8, c, op. 10/12, Polonaise in A flat, op. 53
Joyce Hatto (piano)
Recorded 2nd January, 14th March 1992 and 27th April 1997, Concert Artist Studios, Cambridge

Over the past decade Joyce Hatto has recorded Chopin’s piano music complete – visit the Concert Artist website for details. For those unwilling to invest in such a large scale purchase, here is the first of a few mixed recitals drawn from the series. Fair enough except that, if you think you do not want the complete cycle, you might change your mind after hearing this disc. One way or another, make sure you get at least some of Joyce Hatto’s Chopin, because it’s pretty enthralling.

Hatto’s teachers included that great and free-spirited Chopin player, Alfred Cortot, followed by a period in Warsaw with Drzewiecki. Poland, in fact, seems to be the country outside the UK where she has been most frequently heard. She is often closer to the score than most other interpreters – the rests in the Scherzo are all counted out exactly and the lyrical theme swings in at precisely the tempo set at the opening. But within this generally straight approach she has a rubato that lives and breathes and the actual effect is of great freedom. The music sings and soars as it should. She encompasses, too, the wide range of moods in this programme, from the imperious Scherzo to the grace of the op. 64/3 Waltz, the sparkle of the Rondo and the extreme melancholy of some of the Mazurkas. The Nocturne is quite magical and my only relative disappointment is that the Polonaise is sturdy and majestic but not quite overwhelming.

Those hardest of all Chopin pieces, the Mazurkas, which it is sometimes claimed that only a Pole can interpret rightly, sound perfectly paced to my non-Polish ears and since we have both Mazurkas and Waltzes on the disc we can hear how very different the two are, even when the slower Waltzes and the faster Mazurkas go at about the same tempo.

Personally, I have to regard this disc as simply a trailer for the complete cycle, which I am eager to hear (at present I have the Mazurkas awaiting review). But if you are sure that a selection will be enough for you, this is as good an introduction to Chopin as any – don’t think that this is a lesser product because the pianist isn’t a "great name"; I’m beginning to get the impression that she should be. The recording is warm if a little recessed; better that than aggressively upfront. The mistakes in the work listing, noted above, should have been avoided. Imagine how you would feel if you were a young student working at op. 17/1 and you bought this disc to hear a model performance of it, only to find it wasn’t there.

Christopher Howell

see also
JOYCE HATTO - A Pianist of Extraordinary Personality and Promise Comment and Interview by Burnett James

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