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Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
The Complete Works for the Piano Volume 3

Fantasy in F minor Op.49
Bolero in A minor Op.19
Scherzo No.1 in B minor Op.20
Scherzo No.2 in B flat minor Op.31
Scherzo No.3 in C sharp minor Op.39
Scherzo No.4 in E major Op.54
Joyce Hatto (piano)
Recorded Concert Artist Studios, Cambridge, 1998, 2000 and 2003
CONCERT ARTIST/FIDELIO RECORDINGS CACD 9037-2 [60.45]

 

Joyce Hatto’s Chopin solo series just gets better and better. The third volume takes in the Scherzos and the F minor Fantasy as well as the A minor Bolero. All are played with the kind of poetic touch that admirers have long found in her playing – and none is compromised by any kind of routine or exaggeration. It’s difficult to talk of naturalness of phrasing and evenness of production allied to a singing rounded tone without lapsing into meaningless superlatives – but it really is so.

Her B minor Scherzo is delightfully sculpted and manages to weld expressive contours together firmly but pliantly. If your Gold Standard here is Rubinstein you will find Hatto consistently slower than his 1959 set and it’s maybe only here that I missed his weight of incision especially as regards the slower section. But how well – how very well – she catches and characterises the B flat minor – where the stormy petrel is balanced by the quizzical glance and the lyrical bloom and all are judiciously weighted by Hatto. She uses quite an elastic rubato in this Scherzo but her tone here is really beautiful, the touch soft and yet febrile, the grandeur brought out with oratorical flourish.

The C sharp minor features more exceptional playing – such assurance and clarity of passagework and no technical hindrances between conception and execution – or none at least that are allowed to communicate themselves to the listener. The Fantasy shows once again what a sage and unflashy musician she is – and one who never descends to the level of Chopin clinicians who simply reel off notes by the yard. Phrases arch, paragraphs mould and the tone is unfailingly warm. The Bolero is a very pleasant piece to hear in the context – lively with full weight of rhythm.

Sound quality is remarkably consistent across the three recording dates, though the location remains the accustomed Cambridge studio. Most impressive.

Jonathan Woolf

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