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alternatively Celestial Harmonies


Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Nocturne in C sharp minor, Op posth. (1830) [4:08]
Nocturne in C minor, Op posth. (1847-48) [2:49]
Nocturne in E minor, Op posth. (1827?) [4:01]
Nocturne in B flat minor, Op. 9, No. 1  (1832) [6:07]
Nocturne in E flat major, Op. 9, No. 2 (1832) [6:15]
Nocturne in B major, Op. 9, No. 3 (1832) [6:34]
Nocturne in F major, Op. 15, No. 1 (1833) [5:07]
Nocturne in F sharp major, Op. 15, No. 2 (1833) [3:44]
Nocturne in G minor, Op. 15, No. 3 (1833) [5:56]
Nocturne in C sharp minor, Op. 27, No. 1 (1836) [5:30]
Nocturne in D flat major, Op. 27, No. 2 (1836)   [6:29]
Nocturne in B major, Op. 32, No. 1 (1837) [5:49]
Nocturne in A flat major, Op. 32, No. 2 (1837) [5:59]
Nocturne in G minor, Op. 37, No. 1 (1840) [7:32]
Nocturne in G major, Op. 37, No. 2 (1840) [7:09]
Nocturne in C minor, Op. 48, No. 1 (1841) [6:27]
Nocturne in F sharp minor, Op. 48, No. 2 (1841) [7:37]
Nocturne in F minor, Op. 55, No. 1 (1844) [5:07]
Nocturne in E flat major, Op. 55, No. 2 (1844) [5:14]
Nocturne in B major, Op. 62, No. 1 (1846) [8:41]
Nocturne in E major, Op. 62, No. 2 (1846) [6:15]
Roger Woodward (piano)
rec. Tonstudio Ulrich Kraus, Wörthsee, Bavaria, January 2006
CELESTIAL HARMONIES 142602 [58:17 + 65:55]


Experience Classicsonline

This is a rather perplexing, predominantly slow set of the Nocturnes, from Roger Woodward, doyen of the modernist muse. I’ve recently listened to some Bach recordings of his, leisurely and withdrawn, so it didn’t come as a complete surprise that his Chopin should resonate with similar qualities, but the feeling of perplexity still lingers over my listening.

I should note at the beginning that some German critics have received these two discs and his concert performances with the greatest admiration. For myself however there’s a studied, almost pedagogic air to his performances that, whilst it may lay bear harmonic or motivic shards, manages also to inoculate the hearer against warmth and affectionate phrasing.

He is forever fussing self-consciously over left hand accents – see the C sharp minor of Op.27 – and loses the pulse, as he does in its opus companion. The B major of Op.32 lacks wit and caprice and the playing imposes a quietude, an almost inert diffidence that is really no substitute. The famous E flat major (Op.9) is funereal, horizontally phrased and didactic. Similarly the F major Op.15 is unpoetic in the extreme, Woodward managing the unlikely trick of being provocative and monotonous simultaneously.

The lack of dance momentum that underlay his Bach is equally evident here. There is no sense of motion, colour or rhythmic snap in the G major Op.37 – and almost no sense of characterisation. This remains a besetting problem; the lack of a sense of individual character for these pieces. He makes a decent show in the E minor Op. posth. but by now things are long past recall.

In some ways this set reminds me of an equally disappointing, even dispiriting performance of the Fauré Nocturnes by the pianist Jean-Paul Sevilla on Timpani. Sevilla sounded bored with music with which, earlier in his career, he has been associated. This is not quite the case here; Woodward doesn’t sound bored but he does sound inert and whatever the pianist’s protestations to the contrary in his published comments these are performances that fail to engage.

Jonathan Woolf



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