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Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Prelude in C sharp minor Op.45 (1841) [4:59]
3 Mazurkas Op.50 (1842) [10:43]
Fantaisie in F minor Op.49 (1841) [12:45]
3 Mazurkas Op.56 (1843) [11:58]
Berceuse in D flat major Op.57 (1844) [4:41]
3 Mazurkas Op.59 (1845) [9:35]
Barcarolle in F sharp major Op.60 (1845-46) [8:55]
Polonaise-Fantaisie in A flat major Op.61 (1845-46) [14:00]
Katarzyna Popova-Zydroń (piano)
rec. Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall, 7-9 September 2012
CD ACCORD ACD 189-2 [78:53]
 
Ignacy Jan PADEREWSKI (1860-1941)
Au soir Op.10 No.1 [3:13]
Polonaise in B major Op.9 No.6 [5:20]
Juliusz ZARĘBSKI (1854-1885)
Grand Polonaise in F sharp major Op.6 [11:46]
Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Prelude in C major Op.28 No.1 [0:40]
Prelude in A minor Op.28 No.2 [2:19]
Prelude in G major Op.28 No.3 [0:57]
Prelude in E minor Op.28 No.4 [2:11]
Nocturne in E minor Op.72 No.1 [4:29]
Prelude in E major Op.28 No.9 [1:38]
Prelude in C sharp minor Op.28 No.10 [0:35]
Lento con gran espressione in C sharp minor Op. posth. [4:10]
Polonaise in G sharp minor Op. posth. [7:29]
Polonaise in F sharp minor Op.44 [10:47]
Polonaise in A major Op.40 No.1 [6:02]
Paweł Wakarecy (piano)
rec. Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall, 2-3 January 2013
CD ACCORD ACD 190-2 [62:38]

I’ve decided to review these two discs side by side because not only do they both involve Chopin but Katarzyna Popova-Zydroń was Paweł Wakarecy’s teacher.
 
There’s nothing like a dose of Chopin to give one a lift; if different composer’s music were to be compared to material then Chopin’s would surely be silk such is its soft, smooth elegance. As I wrote those words the Berceuse in D flat major Op.57 from Popova-Zydroń’s disc began to play and I can’t think of a better example to illustrate that idea. As well as elegance there is a delicacy that permeates the music both of which features are amply demonstrated in the opening work on the first disc. All the works on her disc come from Chopin’s ‘late’ period, from eight to three years before his death at 39. The accompanying brochure discusses whether the word ‘late’ should or shouldn’t be used in this context since two of the works here were written when he was only 31 and goes on to point out other artists whose lives were cruelly cut short such as Keats (26), Shelley (30), Schubert (31), Byron (36), Mendelssohn and Pushkin (38), to which list we can add Mozart (35). Whatever else, these artists achieved greatness with their works even if not until after their deaths. The sheer volume of creations by some of them - for example the 600+ songs penned by Schubert - seems to hint that they might have been vaguely aware that their lives were destined to be short. The supreme art they fashioned assured their place in history. While it is speculation as to whether they would have gone on to develop even further one cannot deny the level of their achievements and maturity displayed in their works. In this respect Chopin is a towering example who began to compose at the age of seven with every composition involving the piano, mostly as a solo instrument. What is particularly marked in his music is that every note has Poland woven into the very fabric of it. It is difficult to think of another composer whose works are so inextricably linked to their homeland - a fact which encouraged Liszt to comment that Chopin  "a Polish artist, may be ranked first among musicians who have had an individual poetic sense of a particular nation." Schumann said, following the crushing by Russia of the uprising of 1830-31, that if Tsar Alexander I “could know that in Chopin's works, in the simple strains of his mazurkas, there lurks a dangerous enemy, he would place a ban on his music. Chopin's works are cannon buried in flowers!" This admirable sentiment is reflected in every bar and is what elevates Chopin’s music to the very epitome of pianistic art.
 
As someone whose background is from Bulgaria but who chose to live and work in Poland Popova-Zydroń is a fine pianist who perfectly understands the essence of Chopin. This explains how in her teaching she helped shape Rafał Blechacz who won the 15th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition in 2005 and also Paweł Wakarecy who was one of the winners of the 2010 Chopin Competition in Warsaw and whose disc is up for review next - see below. I enjoyed all the pieces she selected for her recital and will be looking out for any further releases of her playing.
 
Now we move from teacher to pupil and the disc played by Paweł Wakarecy who chose a programme that includes three Polish composers with Chopin inevitably taking pride of place alongside Paderewski and Zarębski. He opens with two short works by Paderewski and immediately one is struck by his deftness of touch which lends a wonderful sense of gentleness to the music. The Paderewski pieces are so beautifully simple and the opening Au soir has a very attractive innocence about it that makes it quite irresistible. The following Polonaise in B major shows the debt to Chopin quite clearly.
 
Zarębski is still a little known composer though more of his works do seem to be seeing the light of day recently. His Grand Polonaise in F sharp major is a good example of why we should hear more. A couple of weeks ago I reviewed another disc played by another young pianist, Kiryl Keduk, whose debut disc My Polish Diary included Zarębski’s Les Roses et les épines which is a really delectable piece. Once again his polonaise owes much to Chopin whose music he championed throughout Europe and whose influence over music in Poland has always been understandably present.
 
The bulk of the disc is of Chopin, including several preludes and polonaises. Apart from three of them, these come from early in his compositional career and they show how fully formed he was from the very start. As I said above Wakarecy has an extremely deft touch. This is borne out particularly in the Lento con gran espressione in C sharp minor where he manages to caress the keys resulting in a really convincing interpretation with notes cascading like droplets of water into a still pool. He also achieves a wonderful sense of delicacy and a pace that is perfectly in keeping with the music. There’s just the right amount of pause between notes that is so key in creating Chopin’s magical world. The record producers chose to complete the disc with Chopin’s opp. 44 and 40 to highlight the extent of his influence over the music of Paderewski and Zarębski. Chopin’s op. 44 polonaise has an unusual structure which embodies both a polonaise and a mazurka in its fairly lengthy 10:47. This time we hear him exchanging the delicate for the powerful at times. The final polonaise must surely be one of the best known of all Chopin’s works. It has become a national symbol as the notes point out. What makes the perfect Chopin interpreter is almost indefinable but it must include warmth, delicacy, charm, elegance, power and sheer talent. You certainly recognise it when you hear it and I heard it on these discs. The teacher has at last come out from the classroom into the concert hall. The pupil has gone straight there, though he is also an assistant lecturer at his alma mater. I’m sure we’ll be hearing both their names a great deal in the future.
 
Both these discs are wonderful recitals and Chopin lovers will be pleased to have them.
 
Steve Arloff 



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