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Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
The Complete Works for Piano Volume 1: The Études

Douze Études Op. 10 (1831)
Douze Études Op. 25 (1832-36)
Trois Études Nouvelles; No. 1 in F minor, No. 2 in D flat major No. 3 in A flat major (1839)
Joyce Hatto (piano)
Recorded: Concert Artist Studios, March 1992 and April 1997

Excellence in the Chopin Études can never be taken for granted, even in the most eminent and exalted of musicians. Imbalance between the technical and expressive elements embedded in the music can cause irreconcilable fissures in the music-making and can give an external show of what should be the most intimate inter relation of finger technique and individual imagination. In this, the first volume of her complete Chopin series, Joyce Hatto proves herself a master of this reconciliation and this recording demonstrates her enduring significance in the literature.

A hallmark of her playing is digital clarity; clarity, also of verticality in musical terms, and a care to give prominence to the melody line without submerging accompanying figures. She cultivates an affectionate but certainly not glutinous profile; she doesn’t over use the pedal – there is no indiscriminate wash of sound. Her control is remarkable, her technique seldom called into question even in the most taxing of passages and the sheer consistency of her playing - and its undoubted excellence - are all deeply impressive. She brings just the right tonal weight and expressive lexicon to the individual Études. In the opening C major of Op. 10 she is energetic, the right hand arpeggios of crystal clarity, the left hand resilient and strong. The E major Lento shows us her expressive intentions; deeply poetic, quite slow and clarity even at forte passages. Some may wish for a greater weight of romantic expressivity but Hatto’s approach is a nobly consistent one throughout in respect of tonal depth. In the great G flat major, the Black Key, her playing has an almost Mozartian grace and animation. Equally her exquisite touch, pellucid but unselfconsciously right, brings out the nocturne gravity of the Andante in E flat minor. Then there is her filigree passagework in No. 11 and her compelling traversal of the Revolutionary Étude.

Op. 25 is similarly impressive. In the opening A flat major – which Schumann likened to the sound of an Aeolian harp - she brings limpidity of finger work and pedalling of a constantly illuminating kind. The effect is one of glorious fluidity, rippling like water. Her F major positively bubbles with wit, the A minor’s syncopations finding in Hatto a pianist who appreciates the displaced voicings and imaginatively humorous writing. As she proves with such consistency in the Russian literature, of which she is still one of the leading exponents, great nobility and gravity of utterance are evoked – as with the E minor Étude – with the minimum of show. The G sharp minor elicits true evenness of touch and in No. 7 in C sharp minor she is affecting without undue sentiment. She is robust and powerful in No. 10 and full of evocative and leonine drama in the A minor (No. 11). The Trois Études Nouvelles, written for Ignaz Moscheles’ Piano Method, are played with similar virtues, and winning lyricism. They also complete a disc of high distinction, one of an increasing number in the Hatto series on Concert Artist.

Jonathan Woolf

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