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Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849) Summer in Nohant Mazurkas Op. 41 (1839): No. 1 in E minor (Palma
mazurka) [2:19]; No. 2 in B major [1:09]; No. 3 in
A flat major [2:05]; No. 4 in C sharp minor [3:25] Ballade No. 3 in A flat major Op. 47 (1841) [7:08] Nocturnes Op. 48 (1841): No. 1 in C minor [6:34];
No. 2 in F sharp minor [8:24] Polonaise in A flat major (Polonaise héroïque)
Op. 53 [7:06] Nocturnes Op. 55 (1842-3): No. 1 in F minor [5:44];
No. 2 in E flat major [5:18] Mazurkas Op. 59 (1845): No. 1 in A minor [4:00]; No.
2 in A flat major [2:40]; No. 3 in F sharp minor [3:21] Polonaise-fantaisie Op. 61 (1846) [12:52]
rec. Nybrokajen 11, Stockholm, Sweden, 25-27 August 2004.
DDD LONDON INDEPENDENT
RECORDS LIR 013 [74:50]
title ‘Summer in Nohant’ may not register with some
readers, but between 1839 and 1846 Chopin spent most of his
summer months at the rural estate of ‘Nohant’ (Berry Province
of France) as guest of its owner George Sand. It was here
that he would occupy his time composing many of his solo
piano pieces. From the Nohant chateau came some of his highly
admired compositions. This disc takes a random mixture of
mazurkas, polonaises and nocturnes composed there over the
seven year period.
opening suite of Mazurkas has a certain delicacy
and subtlety so much so that Chopin apparently remarked that, ‘they
seem pretty to me’. These are the first Nohant compositions
and as such display freshness and charm. It should be mentioned
that the ‘Palma’ was in fact sketched when Chopin visited
Palma. The first suite contains good contrasts: the No.1 is
dreamy with a melancholic air; No.2 bright
with engaging choppy rhythm and good filigree passage-work
requiring much dexterity - competently achieved here by the
pianist; No.3 conveys the characteristics we
often associate with Chopin; while No.4 captures
the serene rolling pastures of the country that surrounds
the Nohant estate. The later 1846 Mazurkas are not quite
as vibrant as those from 1839: No.1 is relaxed and plaintive;
No.2, ardent and delicate and No.3 robust with dynamic strength.
Jones plays them all with due sensitivity and much poetic
the pieces recorded, of particular satisfaction to me is
the Ballade No. 3 with its changing pace never
allowing one to anticipate the next section. It is a substantial
piece (7 minutes) where a number of virtuosic themes make
it ideal for the concert platform as judged from the performance
what comes to mind whilst listening to Chopin’s Nocturnes are
thoughts of ‘the World at peace’. Jones becomes absorbed
in the ebb and flow of the music, a serene canvas, maybe,
with silhouetted clouds lazily drifting over moonlit fields
and hedges. The acoustic is well suited to the series of
slow separated notes, dampening any harsh staccato effect.
The Polonaise-fantaisie with
its unusual opening takes some time to settle down and does
not at first hold one’s attention. To me the first half of
the piece meanders without much purpose until the central
theme starts - 6:38 in - which then commands one’s attention
to the end.
Jones is a gifted pianist who brings good pacing to the music.
He was spring-boarded into prominence by competitions as
the Leeds International Piano Competition (1993) winning
the coveted RCM Chappell Medal. With a debut recital at the
Purcell Rooms, London, he was soon to make appearances at
the Royal Festival Hall, South Bank and gain a reputation
for his interpretation of Mozart and Rachmaninov.
acoustics are good and the recording likewise though I would
have liked to have heard a crisper top to the Steinway D
piano. I found some of the phraseology used in the notes
by Jim Samson rather convoluted. He obviously knows what
he means when he writes: “The E flat Nocturne, Op.55 No.2
is in every way a richer and more adventurous piece than
its predecessor, bringing to the service of its lyricism
a contrapuntal edge and harmonic asperity which were given
only restrained expression in the earlier nocturnes.” But
for the average listener will such points be mentally absorbed?
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