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Now discontinued

Fryderyk CHOPIN (1809-1847)
The Waltzes – Complete Works for Piano: Volume 7

No.1 Op.18 E flat major
No.2 Op.34/1 A flat major
No.3 Op.34/2 A minor
No.4 Op.34/3 F major
No.5 Op.42 A flat major
No.6 Op.64/1 D flat major
No.7 Op.64/2 C sharp minor
No.8 Op.64/3 A flat major
No.9 Op.69/1 A flat major (1835)
No.10 Op.69/2 B minor (1829)
No.11 Op.70/1 G flat major (1835)
No.12 Op.posth F minor (1847/48)
No.13 Op.70/3 D flat major (1829)
No.14 Op.posth E minor (1830)
No.15 Op.posth E major (1829)
No.16 Op.posth A flat (1827)
No.17 Op.posth E flat major (1827)
No.18 A minor (1847/48)
No.19 Op.posth A minor (1840)
No.20 Op.posth F sharp minor (?1835)
Joyce Hatto (piano)
Recorded Concert Artist Studios January and March 1997
CONCERT ARTIST/FIDELIO RECORDINGS CACD 9042-2 [69.54]


This is Volume 7 in Joyce Hatto’s monumental Concert Artist series of the complete Chopin piano works.

It’s axiomatic that comparison between two artists will produce compelling points of divergence but it was most instructive to listen to her set alongside the paradigmatic Rubinstein traversal of 1963. In the first, the E flat major, one finds that Hatto relaxes more into the contrasting central section than does Rubinstein who is more lithe and excavates a bewitching variety of puckish voicings. Hatto’s rubato is more pronounced, speeding up and slowing down, those repeated hammer notes of subtly different speed and depth; she caresses more, unlike Rubinstein, whose momentum is straighter; whose line is more undeviating. In the A minor, Op.34/2 we find Rubinstein wistful, espousing recollection in tranquillity if tinged by regret. Hatto is considerably slower but the differences between them are not simply ones of tempo because she phrases and colours and inflects the line with constant rhythmic hesitancies; in her hands the mood is one of nostalgic reflection.

In the F major (No.34/3) Rubinstein piles on the colour and crisp accents and humorous voicings (some might find him just too overtly perky here) whereas Hatto makes the very most of contrastive material whilst inflecting through rubato usage. She maintains splendid clarity of passagework in the A flat major Op.42, relaxing into the central section and then building to a tremendous climax rather more successfully than Rubinstein. In the D flat major from the Op.64 set I find that Rubinstein binds the rhetoric rather more cohesively than she does though there are many points of interest in the C sharp minor. Rubinstein’s pointing toward the end is supreme here but earlier we can hear how Hatto varies the tempo, employing subtle rubati underpinned by an absolute digital control – excellent passagework. Her sonorities sound entirely natural and she is a deeply sensitive exponent of these works sustaining here an air of almost perplexed direction that is unsettling and thought provoking. In the A flat major Op.69/1 we again find Rubinstein more obviously ardent, more projective, kaleidoscopic in his quicksilver emotive responses and also his ever-present humour. Joyce Hatto employs rubato with considerably more freedom and doesn’t engage in the kinds of puckish voicings that the older musician did; hers is a more evidently interior reading. Sometimes her rubati can seem intrusive – I’m thinking of the B minor Op.69/2 – but her deep identification with and projection of the musing central panels of these waltzes can again be admired in the G flat major Op.70/1. Here this section is very dreamy and reflective and full of tonal allure and affection. This is a terrifically difficult waltz and she evinces powerful command – even Rubinstein smudges a run and I don’t know how many retakes he had – but on balance he binds the piece more wholly with no loss of affection. In the posthumous F minor the tables are turned. Hatto is the quicker, Rubinstein the more pensively private, Hatto the more heroically public, whereas in the E minor Op.posth Hatto is not as dramatically powerful or as leonine as Rubinstein, who drives the waltz with magnetic drama. She is lyrical and affecting in the E flat major of 1827 and shines undimmably in the E flat major Op.posth published in 1840. Here there is true lyrical tonal beauty with animation and colour held in balance and the direction of the music revealed with unforced lyric courage. As a bonus there is the F sharp minor Op.posth provisionally dated to 1835. Joyce Hatto’s notes relate the story of an elderly Priest having given a copy to the publisher Maurice Dumesnil announcing it to have been by Chopin; authentic or not it’s a charming close – and you’ll not often hear it played.

Sound quality is natural and pleasing and the notes welcome and cogent. Volume Seven upholds the fine standard set by Joyce Hatto in this series.

Jonathan Woolf

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