Frédéric CHOPIN(1801-1849) Piano Music – Volume 2
Nocturne No. 3 in G minor, Op. 15 [4:19]
Ballade in G minor, Op. 23 [8:55]
Nocturne No. 1 in F Major, Op. 15 [4:16]
Ballade in F Major, Op. 38 [6:57]
Nocturne No. 2 in E-flat Major, Op. 9 [4:33]
Nocturne No. 1 in C minor, Op. 48 [5:21]
Ballade in A-flat Major, Op. 47 [7:05]
Nocturne No. 1 in F minor, Op. 55 [4:58]
Ballade in F minor, Op. 52 [11:27]
Berceuse in D-flat Major, Op. 57 [4:42]
Nocturne No. 2 in F-sharp Major, Op. 15 [3:36]
Barcarolle in F-sharp Major, Op. 60 [8:31]
Louis Lortie (piano)
rec. 24-25 October 2011, Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk, England
CHANDOS CHAN 10714 [75:16]
I was very much taken with Mr. Lortie’s recent recording of
Liszt’s complete Années de pèlerinage, so I came to
this new Chopin CD with the highest expectations. For the most
part, I found this Chopin recital intelligently planned and
exquisitely played. Lortie’s tone is consistently beautiful;
even at the loudest passages there is never a trace of harshness.
What I found most striking was how Lortie’s playing seems very
much aligned with Chopin’s own performance style. More than
once during this 75 minute CD, I was reminded of Berlioz’s description
of Chopin playing:0
There are incredible details in his mazurkas, and he has found
how to make them doubly interesting by playing them with the
utmost degree of gentleness, with a superlative softness. The
hammers just graze the strings so that the hearer is tempted
to draw near the instrument and strain his ear, as though he
were at a concert of sylphs and will-o’-the-wisps. (Taken from
I had scores at hand for six of the twelve pieces on this recording.
Following along with the performances, I was constantly impressed
by Lortie’s fidelity to the score. I have heard several performances
of the G-minor Ballade, Op. 23 (Track 2), where the music is
played several levels louder than what is called for in the
score. By playing the dynamics as written, Lortie’s performance
is perhaps more delicate and gentle than the norm, yet at the
end of it I was completely convinced that this is how the music
should sound. Likewise, his performance of the Nocturne in E-flat
major, Op. 9 (Track 5) left me completely spellbound by its
quietly intense playing. I stopped the CD player more fully
to take pleasure in the sense of calm I felt. It is fantastic
to experience such a reaction, and, even after listening several
times, the effect was always the same.
Throughout the recital, Lortie shows a complete mastery of the
technical issues: runs are consistently clear, transitions between
sections sound organic and unaffected. Clarity of line is maintained
no matter what the volume or speed of the music. Lortie’s rubato
is natural and always tasteful; more importantly, his phrasing
seems vocal in nature, as if he were singing the phrases instead
of playing them.
After several hearings, there were instances where Lortie’s
approach is overly cautious. This was perhaps most noticeable
in the longest work of the recital, the F-minor Ballade, Op.
52 (Track 9). Here Lortie’s focus on creating a beautiful sound
seems a higher priority than engaging the full emotional content.
For example, at 3.20 minutes, Chopin’s music grows in intensity,
developing a more complex texture where the phrases seem to
almost trip over one another. In performances by Krystian Zimerman
(DG, 1990) and Earl Wild (Ivory Classics, 2005) this moment
brings a greater sense of abandon. In comparison, Lortie is
slightly pedestrian. However the moments that bothered me were
far and few between. Any sense of disappointment I felt after
hearing the Ballade was immediately wiped out by Lortie’s ravishing
performance of the D-flat Berceuse (Track 10).
As in Volume 1 (see Colin
Clarke’s review) Lortie alternates between the Nocturnes
and Ballades, suggesting in the CD booklet that “nobody really
wants to sit down and listen to pieces of a single genre in
a row.” Interesting and informative notes about the music are
provided by Jeffrey Kallberg, while the sound is, as we have
come to expect from Ralph Couzens and Chandos, uniformly excellent.
These are thoughtful, engaging, and gorgeous performances that
would be a worthy addition to any lover of Chopin’s music.
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