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Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Etudes, Op.10 [31:36]
Etudes, Op. 25 [31:57]
Lukas Geniusas (piano)
see end of review for track listing
rec. no details supplied
DUX DUX0834 [63:33]

If anyone thinks that C major is an easy key to play in they need only listen to Chopin’s first Étude of Op. 10. It is superbly played here with great flair and panache by Lukas Geniusas. In both loud and soft passages, delicate and ferocious, he allows the music to speak with clarity and expressiveness. Every semiquaver is in its place within the phrase and in the overall architecture of the piece. This is extremely difficult to achieve as the right hand must flow so evenly. The music is not just simple arpeggios here, and the player requires a formidable technique to make the whole thing sound easy and expressive. Geniusas certainly has the necessary technique but he also has musicality in abundance. These qualities permeate the entire recording. The beautiful melody of No.3 is played with tenderness and expressivity, No.4 is a real powerhouse of energy and No.5, the so-called ‘Black Keys’ study, is played with clarity and delicacy and is brim full of characterisation and expression.
 
Op. 10 Nos. 6 and 9 are given profound, in depth readings with tasteful rubato and dynamics. Geniusas feels the melancholy of No.6 whilst No.9 in F minor, with its mellow and tragic undertones is characterfully played. The ‘Revolutionary’ Study which concludes the first set of Études travels like the wind. The left hand semiquavers are articulated with great clarity, and I like the quiet, delicate texture Geniusas achieves in the pedal-free soft passage just before the stormy concluding bars. This is just one example showing how imaginative this pianist can be. In this and the ensuing étude, Op. 25 No.1 with its arpeggio figurations, Geniusas always makes the melodies sing through the accompaniment.
 
Op. 25 No.7 is one of the most beautiful of the set and it is in pieces like this that we realize what a fine and sensitive musician this pianist is. He manages to achieve a beautiful legato line in No.20 in D flat major with minimal use of pedal. This is quite a feat of fingering, because this study is marked vivace and in sixths for both hands simultaneously. I was quite taken aback, however, when the final concluding chords were played so softly when it is marked by Chopin to be played fortissimo. Well it is so marked in my two urtext editions. The ensuing G flat study is light in touch making a real contrast with the following B minor Étude with its menacing fortissimo, bravura octaves. This is not just a study for the virtuosic display of a brilliant technique for Geniusas. He shapes these octaves into coherent phrases and patterns, no mean feat when you have such technical difficulties to contend with. This study is superbly played with its charming middle section well contrasted.
 
The A minor étude is thrillingly performed with its brilliant and fiendishly difficult passage work all presented with great clarity. What a huge, full-bodied sound he brings to the final chords. The concluding étude, with its arpeggios flying all over the keyboard, brings the whole cycle to a wonderful and dramatic conclusion.
 
These short pieces are much more than studies and exercises. They are not merely a virtuosic tour de force, but they also give us as wonderful, musical experience as do the other collections of short pieces by this composer, such as the waltzes and mazurkas.
 
Lukas Geniusas shows that he has a real feel for and understanding for Chopin’s style. Not only does he demonstrate complete mastery of the huge variety of techniques involved here, but he also has the measure of the musical qualities necessary to make these pieces effective when performed as a cycle. I hope I will have more opportunities to get to know the work of this player soon. I enjoyed these performances immensely and the recording is excellent. This Chopin playing is top of the league.
 
Geoffrey Molyneux
 

Track listing
Op.10 [31:36]
No. 1 in C Major, Op. 10, No. 1 [2:09]
No. 2 in A Minor, Op. 10, No. 2 [1:26]
No. 3 in E Major, Op. 10, No. 3 [4:18]
No. 4 in C-Sharp Minor Op. 10, No. 4 [2:03]
No. 5 in G-Flat Major, Op. 10, No. 5, ‘Black Keys’ [1:53]
No. 6 in E-Flat Minor, Op. 10, No. 6 [4:03]
No. 7 in C Major, Op. 10, No. 7 [1:39]
No. 8 in F Major, Op. 10, No. 8 [2:35]
No. 9 in F Minor, Op. 10, No. 9 [3:17]
No. 10 in A-Flat Major, Op. 10, No. 10 [2:12]
No. 11 in E-Flat Major, Op. 10, No. 11 [3:05]
No. 12 in C Minor, Op. 10, No. 12, ‘Revolutionary’ [2:56]
Op. 25 [31:57]
No. 13 in A-Flat Major, Op. 25, No. 1, ‘Harp Study’ [2:43]
No. 14 in F Minor, Op. 25, No. 2 [1:48]
No. 15 in F Major, Op. 25, No. 3 [1:48]
No. 16 in A Minor, Op. 25, No. 4 [1:43]
No. 17 in E Minor, Op. 25, No. 5 [3:30]
No. 18 in G-Sharp Minor, Op. 25, No. 6 [2:09]
No. 19 in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 25, No. 7 [5:15]
No. 20 in D-Flat Major, Op. 25, No. 8 [1:08]
No. 21 in G-Flat Major, Op. 25, No. 9, ‘Butterfly's Wings’ [1:06]
No. 22 in B Minor, Op. 25, No. 10 [3:59]
No. 23 in A Minor, Op. 25, No. 11, ‘Winter Wind’ [4:00]
No. 24 in C Minor, Op. 25, No. 12 [2:48]

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