Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Nineteen Waltzes
1. A-flat Major, (Brown-Index 21) [1:26]
2. D-flat Major, Op. 70, No. 3 [2:53]
3. B Minor, Op. posth. 69, No. 2 [3:45]
4. E Major, (Brown-Index 44) [2:38]
5. E-flat Major, (Brown-Index 46) [2:31
6. E Minor, (Brown-Index 56) [2:53]
7. E-flat Major, Op. 18 [5:56]
8. G-flat Major, Opus posth. 70, No. 1 [2:27]
9. A-flat Major, Opus posth. 69, No. 1 [3:56]
10. A Minor, Op. 34, No. 2 [5:13]
11. A-flat Major, Op. 34, No. 1 [5:56]
12. F Major, Op. 34, No. 3 [2:42]
13. E-flat Major, (Brown-Index 133) [2:05]
14. A-flat Major, Op. 42 [4:05]
15. F Minor, Opus posth. 70, No. 2 [3:28]
16. A Minor, (Brown-Index 150) [2:49]
17. C-sharp Minor, Op. 64, No. 2 [3:41]
18. A-flat Major, Op. 64, No. 3 [3:52]
19. D-flat Major, Op. 64, No. 1 [2:03]
Mordecai Shehori (piano)
rec. October 2010, Las Vegas
CEMBAL D’AMOUR CD156 [63:58]

This sequence of Chopin waltzes was recorded in the first two weeks of October 2010 by Mordecai Shehori, and it demonstrates his investigative mind at work once again. He’s not a musician to allow established protocol to hinder a new look either at source material or at matters of presentation. So, quickly dispatching the question of opus numbers in a booklet note entitled ‘The Pointlessness of Opus Numbers as a Guide to a Composer’s Development’, he has arranged the sequence chronologically. He has also investigated the ‘Julian Fontana’ versions of four waltzes, Op. 69 Nos 1 and 2, Op. 70 Nos 1 and 2. Fontana, a friend of the composer, copied Chopin’s music, and it was he who saw these four waltzes to paper; they survive only in sketch-like form. Shehori has incorporated the early sketch version into the Fontana, usually in the form of the last repeat. His notes underline Shehori’s commitment to this practice.

The proof as ever, is in the eating. Shehori is on record as decrying a lack of textual fidelity by even the greatest pianists. His own approach is faithful and imaginative. His D flat major Op.70 No.3 has great tenderness, and a warmth that, say, Rubinstein never truly sought to cultivate in this work, remaining as he did more austere and extrovert than Shehori’s more introspective limpidity. Shehori is certainly more inclined to explore the rubato and rhythmic implications of the B minor (that posthumous Op.69 No.2) than Rubinstein or even Lipatti, whilst in the E flat major (Brown Index 46) he investigates the Tyrolean yodel that Chopin infiltrated into the music. Shehori’s booklet note includes a passage on this matter and it makes for engaging reading, and indeed listening, in the light of it.

In the E flat major Op.18 Shehori shows a distinct independence from Rubinstein in his classic 1954 studio recording, being more athletic in accenting and dynamic in phrasing – indeed more explosive all round. His approach in the G flat major Op. posth. Op. 70 No.1 is quite measured. He is not much pursuant of the kinds of colour that Rubinstein and Lipatti found here, rather more on the structural and rhythmic bases of the music. Nor does he seem much to endorse the ‘L’Adieu’ element of the A flat major Op. posth. Op.69 No.1, given that his tempo is quite brisk and that his interest centres of the harmonic steps in the left hand, which are explored to advantage. He emphasises details such as this, which other pianists are apt to conjoin to an all-purpose ‘beautiful tone’ – not that Shehori’s tone is anything but highly attractive.

He does prefer a rather ‘sec’ approach to the A flat major Op.34 No.1. His avoidance of metricality, as well as a broader tempo, gives the music a light, tripping immediacy, reinforced by the quite immediate recorded quality. It’s anything but grand seigniorial. Shehori’s little nagging left hand accenting illuminates the A flat major Op.42; this deft harmonic pointing is itself one of Shehori’s points, as are a well judged control of rubati and accelerandi.

This enterprising, very personal approach will win Shehori admirers. His slant is sometimes unusual, always thoughtful, and he has a particular gift for generating intensity and spontaneity in the recording studio.

Jonathan Woolf

This enterprising, very personal approach will win Shehori admirers.