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Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Complete Mazurkas

B flat (1825), G (1825), Opp. 6, 7, 17, 24, 30, 33, 41/1
Opp. 41/2-4, 50, 56, 59, 63, a minor "Emile Gaillard" A minor "Notre Temps", Opp. 67, 68, D (1832), B flat (1832), C (1833), A flat (1834)
Joyce Hatto (piano)
Recorded 15th March 1992, 27th April 1997, Concert Artist Studios
2 CDs - available separately

Recital of 26 Mazurkas.

Op. 6/2, Op. 7 1-5, Op. 17 Nos. 2 and 4, Op. 24 Nos. 1-4, Op. 30 Nos. 1-4, Op. 33 Nos. 1, 3 and 4, Op. 50 Nos. 2 and 3, Op. 56/3, Op. 59 Nos. 1-3, Op. 63/2
Sergio Fiorentino (piano)
Recorded at various locations (Hamburg, Paris, London, Greenwich and Guildford during the period July 1958 to February 1966)


With the new release of Sergio Fiorentino’s selection of Mazurkas I thought it would be an opportune time to discuss them in the light of Joyce Hatto’s two-disc set, both on Concert Artist. This company has shown exceptional commitment to these two pianists, among their other roster of artists, but whilst Hatto is happily still recording Fiorentino’s performances have to be retrieved from the vaults and in this case from a variety of recording locations and dates in London, Paris and Hamburg.

Both of course have strong credentials as Chopin players. The differences in matters of interpretation between them act as fruitful material for analysis and I’d just point to a few and allow the generality of differences to emerge from them. In the C sharp minor Op. 6/2 Hatto’s tempi are more elastic and she etches things rather less sharply; she finds in the music a layer of seriousness and inwardness whereas Fiorentino tends to stress the joviality of it. Turn to the B flat Op. 7/1 and things shift subtly. Hatto is bell-like and colourful, quicker. Fiorentino contrasts the pompous and the peasant aspects rather than explore, as does Hatto, the colouristic potential inherent in the music and he tends to use more rubato here. Listen to Rubinstein’s stereo recording and one encounters the old master’s cocksure strut, tying the bass whimsically, and employing lavish rubati in the slower sections. The Fiorentino Mazurka in A Op. 7/2 was recorded at a lower level – though it’s certainly true that Concert Artists has done a first rate job of equalizing these distinct recording locations so that, apart from a few examples, one’s ear is not constantly distracted by changing acoustics and levels. Both Fiorentino and Hatto here yield to Rubinstein who sculpts in paragraphs; Fiorentino is straightforward, she is nuanced and introspective but he outdoes them in leonine engagement and also chordal power let alone inwardness of expression.

Other points of difference are many and varied. Hatto catches the malign and troubling aspect of the F minor Op. 7/3 whereas the Italian is more abrupt and both feel it much quicker than the urbane and patrician reading by Rubinstein. In the G minor Op. 24/1 Fiorentino’s rubati please but Hatto sounds just a mite more natural in her phrasing whereas in the second of the set he is more glittering and she holds back at a slower tempo (her tempi are in the main consistently slower than Fiorentino’s). She lengthens phrasing with gravity in the C minor Op. 30/1 where Fiorentino is brighter and sprucer. In the D flat Op. 30/3 Fiorentino turns the tables – he’s wittier in the right hand than Hatto who is heavier and more contrastive than he. Rubinstein incidentally inclines more to Hatto’s profile of this Mazurka, though he’s more lithe than either. Hatto’s rich dark tone is immediately audible in the C sharp minor of the Op. 30 set; she takes quite a lot of the introduction under quite a bit of pedal and is heavier at transitional points than Fiorentino though their timings are almost identical. Rubinstein is quite skittish here but powerful as well and quick. In the C major Op. 33/3 Hatto alone of the three pianists takes the repeat (the Fiorentino recording level is very shallow). Fiorentino stresses the capricious youthfulness in the B minor Op. 33/4 whereas Hatto, once more, sees things more seriously; Rubinstein is very slow and the contrasting material tends to splinter. No one comes within a country mile of the incendiary Ignaz Friedman whose combustible voicings, vertiginous rubati and all round dynamism put him in a famous category of his own, should you wish to join him (on Naxos). When it comes to Op. 50/2 I find that Hatto is rather more articulate than Fiorentino, who sounds just a bit bland after her.

Fiorentino plays twenty-six of the Mazurkas whereas Hatto’s are part of her mammoth complete Chopin recording undertaking. Both are revealing of the complexities and ambiguities of these works and both approach them from subtly different vantage points. Both have impressed me for that very reason.

Jonathan Woolf

Concert Artist complete catalogue available from MusicWeb International



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