Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Andante Spianato et Polonaise Op.22 [14:07]
Polonaise No.1 Op.26 No.1 [5:56]
Polonaise No.2 Op.26 No.2 [5:16]
Polonaise No.3 Op.40 No.1 [4:34]
Polonaise No.4 Op.40 No.2 [5:12]
Polonaise Op.44 [10:08]
Grande Polonaise Op.53 [6:53]
Polonaise-Fantaisie Op.61 [11:16]
Polonaise op. posth. Op.71 No.1 [5:24]
Polonaise op. posth Op.71.No.2 [7:26]
Polonaise op. posth Op.71.No.3 [8:09]
Marcel Ciampi (piano)
rec. 1952, Paris
FORGOTTEN RECORDS FR281/2 [45:15 + 39:11]
Many musicians recorded far less often than their talents deserved. The Louis Diémer student Marcel Ciampi, for example, who was born in 1891 made just one CD’s worth of solo piano recordings on 78s. Ironically his wife, the violinist Yvonne Astruc, made a rather bigger show on shellac. Fortunately they both recorded on LP and it’s to Ciampi’s 1952 Chopin Polonaise recordings that Forgotten Records has astutely turned.
If Ciampi is now better remembered as a teacher - his students included Hephzibah, Yaltah and Jeremy Menuhin, Yvonne Loriod, Cécile Ousset, Marcel Gazelle and a host more - then discs like this should adjust one’s perspectives more onto Ciampi the performer, the man who had accompanied Casals, Thibaud and Enesco before the war.
Ciampi was an energising, voluble performer, whose instincts remained unshackled by the recording studio. In his very first session, in June 1929, he had recorded the Op.26 No.2 Polonaise. It’s a rather plummy recording but it doesn’t differ much materially from this 1952 LP performance given nearly a quarter of a century later. Opportunities such as this are quite rare in Ciampi’s discography, where one can listen to performances decades apart and compare and contrast. His later recording is just as effective, though detail differs, of course. What doesn’t change is his spontaneous-sounding sense of engagement. He was a terrifically alive performer, whose sense of zest is a delight to hear.
Artistically he is somewhat difficult to place. You’d assume French, but actually Ciampi (who died as late as 1980) is rather more in the Russian tradition. Yes, he is often touted as a Diémer student, as Forgotten Records does and as my first paragraph did, but he seems to have learned most, and studied best, with a pupil of Anton Rubinstein called Marie Perez de Brambilla. There is nothing precious or bejewelled about this kind of playing; on the contrary there’s a muscularity about it that compels excitement. Vitality and energy are generated in the Op.44 Polonaise, rhythmically vital and tonally admirable. He brings drama to everything he plays and his sense of characterisation, exemplified by the Grande Polonaise - with some piquant hesitations - is an essential ingredient of his art. There are some moments of untidiness, such as in the Polonaise-Fantaisie, but the obverse is the formidable drive he builds.
It’s a shame that the Polonaises just creep over the 80 minute mark, thus necessitating a second CD. But for those inquisitive in the art of this outstanding teacher and performer this set, recorded when he was already 61, will clearly indicate the sense of communicative drive of which he was capable.
Jonathan Woolf
Vitality and energy … communicative drive.