Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Fantasie-Impromptu in C sharp minor Op. 66 (1834) [5.03]
Nocturne in E flat major Op. 55 No. 2 (1844) [4.32]
Etude in A flat major Op. 25 No. 1 (1837) [2.15]
Etude in F minor Op. 25 No. 2 (1837) [1.23]
Nocturne in B flat minor Op. 9 No. 1 (1833) [4.57]
Polonaise in G flat major Op. posth (1829) [8.01]
Four Mazurkas Op. 30 (1837) [9.23]
Andante Spianato et Grande Polonaise brillante Op. 22 (1836) [13.05]
Maria Gabrys (Piano)
rec. Lichtenstein Palace, Prague, 21-22 August 2010. DDD
ARCODIVA UP 0139-2 131 [49.10]

Maria Gabrys selected from a wide range of Chopinís oeuvre for her contribution to last yearís bi-centenary celebrations. As one might expect from a Polish pianist, she is a very fine Chopin interpreter and strikes just the right balance between the Classical and Romantic elements. Poise and poetic refinement are balanced with romantic passion and, when required, dazzling virtuosity. There is a great deal to recommend this recital so it is a pity that the total playing time is less than 50 minutes.

She opens her recital with the perennially popular Fantasie-Impromptu which she takes at a brisk pace. The whirling right-hand figurations at the beginning are beautifully shaped and crafted while in the central section she allows the music to breathe and uses finely judged rubato and a ravishing tone to bring out the expressive and lyrical elements.

Gabrys opts to play the early B flat minor Nocturne and the later Op. 55 E flat Nocturne. The tempo for the B flat minor is slightly slow but the tone is dreamy and romantic and the filigree right-hand ornamentation exquisite. Gabrysí account of the E flat major Nocturne is first rate. The rubato, phrasing and shaping of the piece are all well judged and the layered textures beautifully crafted. For me Gabrysí account of the nocturnes is not quite up there with the greatest interpreters - Rubinstein or Friedmanís ravishing account of the E flat Nocturne - but very fine nonetheless.

Gabrysí brings out the dance-like elements of the four Mazurkas Op. 30 in what is quite an extrovert and up-beat performance. In the C minor she uses finely judged rubato and rhythmic subtlety to create a feeling of yearning and expectation. There is some well judged phrasing and rubato in the B minor mazurka while the ornamentation, phrasing and tonal contrasts in the D flat major are quite exquisite. Many pianists have played the great C sharp minor mazurka including Horowitz and Rubinstein. Gabrys gives an exceptionally fine account of the piece although for me the opening section lacks some of the playful whimsy that Horowitz makes so much of in his recording.

Gabrysí virtuosity comes to the fore both in the two Op. 25 Etudes and in the Polonaises. The arpeggios in the ĎHarpí study are handled with ease and Gabrys works up to a wonderful climax in the piece. The motoric figurations in the Op. 25 No. 2 Etude were dazzling and admirably clear although I thought this account lacked some of the poetic dreaminess that one hears in other recordings.

Gabrysí account of the two Polonaises were my favourite part of the disc. In the G flat major Gabrys captures perfectly all the lilt and swagger while balancing this with a restraint and poise that is so quintessentially Chopin. There was some wonderful delicacy and ornamentation in the Andante Spianato while in the Grande Polonaise, Gabrysí virtuoso technique comes to the fore as she dispatches the complex passage work with ease. This work was delightfully characterised with some artful phrasing and rubato and in the coda Gabrys whips things up to drive her Chopin recital to an exhilarating conclusion.

Robert Beattie

Delightfully characterised with artful phrasing and rubato.