Frederic CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Prelude Op 45 [4.30]
24 Preludes Op 28 (1839) [28.11]
Berceuse Op 57 (1844) [4.20]
Barcarolle in F Sharp Major (1846) [7.38]
Nocturne in E Flat Op 9, No. 2 (1833) [3.50]
Nocturne in C Sharp Minor Op 20 (1837) [3.58]
Daniel Grimwood (piano)
rec. Church of St John the Evangelist, Upper Norwood, 9-13 August 2009. DDD
SFZ MUSIC SFZM0210 [51.07]
Daniel Grimwood has elected to play his contribution to the Chopin bi-centenary celebrations on a period instrument, a restored 1851 Erard piano. In his stimulating programme notes, he makes a persuasive case for hearing these works on an original period instrument rather than on a modern Steinway and gives some interesting insights into all of the works.
I have been very impressed with much of Grimwood’s piano playing in the past but this recital is something of a mixed bag, and the least successful part of it is the 24 preludes. These highly original, idiosyncratic pieces were inspired by the Bach 48 and were written in Valdemosa when Chopin was recuperating on holiday with George Sand. They allow considerable scope for new and original interpretations and approaches. Many of the great pianists of the past have recorded these works including Argerich, Ashkenazy, Cortot, Pollini, Arrau, Richter and, more recently, Kissin so the bar has been set very high when it comes to new recordings.
Grimwood’s account of the preludes is very uneven: there is some lovely lyrical playing and fascinating musical insights but I also found a lot of the playing erratic and wayward. The opening C major prelude was expressive but rhythmically erratic particularly towards the end, while the tone in the ensuing A minor prelude seemed uneven. The filigree figurations in the left hand of the G major prelude were handled well but again Grimwood’s tone in the E minor prelude was not as expressive as it might be and this account seemed rather pedestrian particularly when compared with the incomparable Cortot.
The left hand melody in the D major prelude was expressive and expansive and Grimwood evoked well the melancholy of the piece. Grimwood seemed to make rather heavy weather of the technically demanding F sharp minor prelude while the C sharp minor was not as light as it might be. The F sharp major prelude was beautifully played with Grimwood savouring all of the lyricism of the work but the E flat minor prelude was very wayward and unattractive both in terms of its dynamic fluctuations and uneven accented lines.
The ‘Raindrop’ prelude was sensitively played with some nice articulation and rubato, but Grimwood did not seem completely on top of the technically very demanding B flat minor prelude particularly if one compares it with Argerich’s firestorm account. Grimwood seemed to over-emphasise the rhythmic percussiveness and dissonance in both the F minor and G minor preludes but the technical demands of the E flat major prelude were expertly handled and the B flat major prelude beautifully played. Grimwood ended the set in style with the D minor prelude which was played with dramatic flair.
I was much more impressed with the quartet of pieces that ended this disc and the opening Op. 45 prelude. Grimwood’s account of the Barcarolle was exceptionally fine and probably the best thing on this disc with some well judged rubato and carefully crafted melodic lines, beautiful tonal contrasts and delicate filigree playing. The Berceuse, which Grimwood says is his mother’s favourite piece, probably wasn’t as light and delicate as it could be although Grimwood coaxed a lovely tone from the piano and the filigree figurations were deftly handled. The concluding C sharp minor nocturne was expressively played with some beautiful phrasing and shaping of the thematic material.
Something of a mixed bag.