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Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Nocturnes in C sharp minor, E minor (Op.72/1) andC minor (Op.48/1)
Ballades in G minor (Op.23) & F (Op.38)
Waltz in A minor, Op.34/2
Prelude in E minor, Op.28/4
Andante spianato and Grande Polonaise, Op.22 * #
Mazurka in A minor, Op.17/4 **
Wojciech KILAR (born 1932)

Moving to the Ghetto Oct.31, 1940 #
Music from and inspired by the Film The Pianist
Janusz Olejniczak (piano)
Wladislaw Szpilman (piano) **
Hanna Wolczedska (clarinet) #
Warsaw Philharmonic National Orchestra of Poland/Tadeusz Strugala * #
Recorded 1948, 1991, 1994, 2001, 2002
SONY SK 87739 [58í30"]


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The music of the film Ė The Pianist, directed by Roman Polanski. The subject is Wladislaw Szpilman, a pianist, who takes refuge in a Warsaw Ghetto during World War II having avoided being shipped to a death camp thanks to the aid of a music-loving SS officer. As I understand it! I havenít seen the film, nor are there any notes in the CDís booklet, which is though graced by several stills from the film. I must presume that given the CD has at least 20 minutes more playing time available that all the music featured in the film is included. Of the nine pieces by Chopin, Janusz Olejniczak plays eight. Of these, three are newly recorded in 2001, four are from 1991 and the Prelude is from 1994. On what might be considered a bonus track, Wladislaw Szpilman himself recorded the Mazurka in 1948.

The three nocturnes open the CD. They flow and are spontaneous; Janusz Olejniczak plays with mellow tone and concentrated expression. However, as one listens further, his sound and expressive palette becomes somewhat limited. While he commands a wide dynamic range and an unforced fortissimo (try the climax of the C minor Nocturne), I was neither wholly absorbed nor totally convinced once past the engaging without-opus-number C sharp minor nocturne. In short his is good if limited playing.

I am left to suggest that this CD is a souvenir for those who see the film and like the music. In this respect it is a perfectly fine release, and people buying it thus wonít be disappointed or worry about the mingling of different-year recordings that betray slightly higher hiss levels in the earlier takes, the tape endings of which are rather precipitated in their splicing. Nor will it be of paramount concern that Olejniczak, while a sensitive player, one who has Chopinís music in his fingers if not always his soul, proves too volatile an interpreter. For example, the way he takes off a couple of minutes into the F major Ballade is too contrasting; other such diversions mark Olejniczak as a sectional Chopin interpreter Ė hereís one mood, now another, the whole seems less important. He is also too percussive. I donít doubt the passion, although Iím not sure this music communicates as it intrinsically might when bravura and demonstration are as nakedly detailed as here.

Thereís a similar head-banging start to the G minor Ballade, the most popular of the four, before a welcome yielding to introspection. Even so, there is a note for note realisation that while far from being literal also leaves the door open for something altogether more illuminating and identified; itís an entrance Olejniczak doesnít go into. Overall, his agenda is more assault and battery than poise and growth. Fans of Kissin might like it! The waltz could be more seductive, the prelude more suggestive of latent melancholy, and the Andante spianato is too lumpy and perfunctory for the calm lake that this music should be. The orchestra enter for the Polonaise, its textures inflated by too cavernous an acoustic (the same one that is unhelpful to José Curaís new recording of Rachmaninovís Second Symphony).

Track 10 is Kilarís two-minute piece, written for the film presumably, that is a slinky and doleful example of Klezmer-tinged music, here for clarinet and strings, its diminuendo close produced it seems by the control room rather than the players.

Finally to the single example of Szpilmanís own playing. The sound is somewhat primitive but no barrier to enjoying playing that has an emotional interior that finds the soul and shape of this archetype of Chopinís most elusive oeuvre. A CD, then, for the souvenir-hunter. With the exception of Szpilmanís four-minute appearance, I donít think serious collectors need be troubled.

Colin Anderson

Gerard Hoffnung CDs

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