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AVAILABILITY Stillwater Sound

Frederic CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Etudes, Op. 25, Nos. 1-12 (1832-36) [31:43]
Trois Nouvelles Etudes (1839) [6:03]
Deux Posthumous Nocturnes [5:51]
Tomoko Hagiwara (piano)
rec. Stillwater Sound Recording Studio, San Francisco, California, no dates given.

Chopin, unlike any composer before or since, was able to make beautiful music out of just about anything. This quality is exemplified in his two sets of Etudes for piano, music that presents both Herculean technical challenges and sublime ear candy. To play them well is to make them seem effortless while simultaneously expressing a deep sense of poetry.
Tomoko Hagiwara has an impressive resume having gained recognition in a couple of prestigious competitions. She also has a formidable pedagogical lineage, and holds an important post in a major American music conservatory. One wonders on first glance why her name is rather unfamiliar.
The highest praise that I can muster is “not bad.” At best this is good undergraduate playing. In the faster more brilliant etudes we can hear the effort going into getting all of the notes in place. In the slower more melodic works, there is a decided lack of line. One particularly longs for the singing line that say, Rubinstein achieves in the Op. 25, No. 7 etude which features a longing solo melody in the left hand. The so-called Winter Wind etude thunders along more like a winter truck, and the cascades of descending notes are blurred and sloppy. I could go on with a blow by blow of each work, but I think you get the idea.
This disc is one of a sizable series of discs that covers a wide range of the standard piano repertoire, and I will give a few of the others a listen lest I dismiss an artist’s work solely on one recording. However, there is little here either in terms of technical brilliance or innate musicality to make me run to the shelf for more.
Add to the mediocre playing some utterly useless program notes and you wonder just what they are teaching at the San Francisco Conservatory. They are so steeped in saccharine attempts to be poetic that they could pass for a Hallmark greeting card.
Sonics are acceptable, but the natural reverberation of a large hall would have been a nice touch.
Adequate at best, lame program notes and less than stellar sound make this recording less than desirable. ... see Full Review
Kevin Sutton




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