the past year, I accomplished a review project covering over 30
versions of Chopin’s Opus 28 Preludes; the review has 19 Parts
and can be found on the Classical Net website. Without going into
detail, my conclusions were that four particular versions stood
tallest among the rest: Martha Argerich, Nelson Freire, Cyprien
Katsaris, and Jorge Bolet.
was aware that Dame Moura Lympany had recorded Chopin’s Preludes
for Erato, but the recording was no longer in print. Naturally,
I was very pleased to receive this new reissue of the Erato recording
for review, now under the Warner/Apex label. My anticipation was
so great that I bumped every other disc in my review stack and
immediately started digging into Lympany’s performances.
are wonderful readings with two minor quibbles I might as well
get out of the way at this time. Each Prelude is given a mainstream
performance. You won’t hear anything new, but you might well hear
details you haven’t in the past. The four Preludes I am luke-warm
about are all powerful ones: the 5th, 8th,
12th and 24th Preludes. In each, the intensity
levels either slacken at times or are simply not sufficiently
strong and possess little wildness.
the negatives accomplished, let me tell you a little about the
superb aspects of Lympany’s set of performances. The inner voice
projection and voice interaction is exceptional at all times.
Listen to the quicksilver 3rd Prelude, and you will
hear new voice connections. The 2nd, 4th,
and 6th Preludes are given a totally bleak portrayal
by Lympany, and her regal double dotting in the 9th
Prelude is infectious. Lympany never misses an opportunity to
convey the beauty of Chopin’s music as evidenced by her gorgeous
performances of the 13th, 15th, and 19th
Preludes. Also, the pristine beauty of the 23rd Prelude
has never shone more brightly in any other version on record.
earlier scolded Lympany for not always delivering full power and
intensity, I must admit that her energy accumulation and release
are tremendous in the 14th and 22nd Preludes.
If only she had carried this intensity into the pieces I mentioned
above, her version would surely be among the elite.
strengths fully apply to her Etude selections, and the misgivings
I have apply as well. Here’s a short synopsis of Lympany’s readings:
Etude in A flat major is one of the most popular of the set, and
that’s perfectly understandable. With its swirling arpeggios surrounding
the gorgeous melody line, the A flat major offers a wealth of
emotional themes including rapture, despair, and danger. Lympany
extends the piece to almost three minutes, and there are quite
a few exceptional versions of slow tempo including those from
Vladimir Ashkenazy, Samson François, and Guiomar Novaes.
Each of these three has in common a strong degree of rapture and
urgency, qualities that are in abundant supply in the Lympany
reading that offers superb elasticity of phrasing and incisive
musical swells from the arpeggios.
is also exceptional in the Etude in F minor, which is a rapid-fire
study in triplets. I tend to favor the more exciting versions
such as the Novaes and Pollini performances. Lympany is not one
for excitement, but she more than makes up for it with her outstanding
detail and interaction of voices. Also, you won’t find a more
beautiful and lyrical interpretation.
Etude in G sharp minor is known as "Thirds", because
chromatic thirds are the ingredients that fuel the music. As such,
this isn’t one of Chopin’s more lyrical etudes, but it does possess
an eerie and mysterious nature and the interaction of voices can
be very interesting. Claudio Arrau conveys exceptional detail
and interaction of voices in addition to finding as much lyricism
as possible. If a version delivering a rush of adrenalin is preferred,
the fast Ashkenazy interpretation should ignite your energy source.
Lympany’s performance is more along the lines of Arrau with fine
detail and poetry. She is less exuberant than most, but she gives
the piece a tenderness and poignancy not often found on disc.
with the final Prelude of Opus 28, Chopin closes out his Opus
25 set with a big bang. Known as the "Ocean Etude",
we are dealing with an ocean of immense power, steadfast determination
and wild abandon. Played by pianists such as François and
Ashkenazy, this C minor piece is furious and brutal. Lympany is
well off that mark, giving a more modest interpretation along
the lines of Shura Cherkassky. However, his level of tension and
nuance is greater than Lympany’s.
is also more effective than Lympany in the Etude in E flat minor.
I love how he uses a very slow tempo with wide intervals to offer
a bleak and stark interpretation. Lympany’s version flows like
silk, but she doesn’t convey the music’s emotional core.
general playing style in Chopin is well represented in her interpretation
of the speedy Etude in C sharp minor, which is abundant in tension
and excitement. Playing her version next to Ashkenazy’s clearly
reveals that Ashkenazy is the one who delivers the high level
of excitement and abandon missing in her interpretation. Lympany
does convey exceptional detail and an uncanny sense for the long
line of the music, but her intensity of emotion is not at peak
levels. She is at all times tasteful, but this quality has its
on the program is the Etude in G flat major, a sunny and effervescent
piece where the right hand strikes only black keys excepting for
one F major note. Lympany could be more bubbly, but she again
provides exceptional voice interaction.
recorded sound is clear and rather stark, offering little warmth.
In essence, it is an ‘examine every note’ soundstage well suited
for a Rosalyn Tureck or Nelson Freire. However, Lympany’s warm
pianism does not make for an excellent match.
conclusion, I heartily recommend the Lympany disc except for those
who must have Chopin’s most extreme and intense thoughts on a
consistent basis. Lympany’s natural poetry combined with superb
detail and projection of inner voices makes for an attractive
addition to one’s Chopin library. If I have seemed not quite taken
with the disc, it’s just that I tend to be very particular with
performances of Chopin’s music in that he offers so much (intensity,
diversity, beauty, detail) and I want all of it. Dame Moura Lympany
comes closer than most in providing the total package.