Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Variations in F on the Name Abegg, op.1 (1829-30) [7:51]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Ballade no.2 in B minor, S.171 (1853) [13:52]
Isoldens Liebestod aus Tristan und Isolde, S.447 (1867/1875) [7:04]
Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Andante Spianato in G - Grande Polonaise Brillante in E flat, op.22 (1830-34) [3:48] - [9:50]
Ballade no.4 in F minor, op.52 (1842) [11:01]
Alexandra Dariescu (piano)
rec. Music Room, Champs Hill, Pulborough, England, 5-7 September 2011. DDD
CHAMPS HILL CHRCD 035 [53:26] 

This is the debut recording of young UK-based, Romanian pianist Alexandra Dariescu. She has chosen a programme of core Romantic repertoire, which is both a good thing - there is already a large captive audience, potentially - and a bad one: hardly a day goes by without a new release of solo piano music by any permutation from Chopin, Liszt and Schumann.
Still, the composers are as dear to her as they are to any pianist, and her selection is a varied, objectively attractive one. Dariescu has also performed this programme in concert, which surely contributes to the confidence she radiates in these recordings. Fleet of finger, elegant of phrase and pianistically bright, Dariescu uses rubato freely but intelligently - no expressive excesses to make a name for herself. Above all, she communicates through her playing what is already clear from the CD photos - that she is enjoying herself. The listener will too.
Ultimately, Dariescu will get more from Chopin's Ballade in F minor, one of his most subtly poetic works, and give more to it as she performs it more, but for a first recording hers is already a mature reading - affecting but not affected. Shortly after Chopin's death Liszt wrote his B minor Ballade, and it is perhaps here that Dariescu shines most vividly. Very comfortable with the substantial demands Liszt makes of the pianist's hands and mind, she brings luminescence and a sense of wistful joy to the composer's tribute to his great if ungrateful predecessor.
Sound quality is very good. The accompanying booklet has more photos of Dariescu than is strictly necessary, but the English-only notes by Daniel Jaffé are detailed and well written, and there is a nice foreword from Dariescu that rightly appreciates the support and encouragement given by the Champs Hill team. The only minor quibble is the rather short playing time.  


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Luminescence and wistful joy.