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Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
24 Preludes Op.28 (1837/8) [42:01]
Mazurkas; Op.17 No.4 in A minor [4;45]; Op.17 No.2 in E minor [2;03]; Op.63 No.3 in C sharp minor [2;10]; Op.50 No.3 in C sharp minor [6;12]; Op.6 No.1 in F sharp minor [2;53];
Nocturne Op.9 No.3 in B major [6;56]; Op.27 No.2 in D flat major [5;54]
Ingrid Fliter (piano)
rec. 2014, Potton Hall, Suffolk, UK
LINN SACD CKD475 [72:59]

Ingrid Fliter has a number of EMI Chopin discs to her name and has already recorded a critically acclaimed CD of the Chopin concertos for Linn. She now turns her gaze onto the Preludes. The results are full of character and warmly textured pianism, abetted by Linn’s excellent SACD sound in the admirable venue at Potton Hall. She is a considerable virtuoso but never allows mechanical instincts to obstruct the communicative spirit of her music-making.

What’s interesting is that a number of the slower Preludes are taken a notch or two slower than one might have expected. She is an intense and expressive player, and much is impressive but one often also becomes aware that her use of the pedal bathes some of the Preludes too deeply. The B minor is an example of a slower-than-usual Prelude though it is certainly well sustained. Rather more contentious is the degree of insistence she brings to bear. The E major, which is again subject to too much pedal, is rather punched out. The effect is to render its narrative too prosaic, too unambiguous. Listen to Cortot’s 1926 set, where he brings the quicksilver light and shade to life in a way that eludes Fliter. Similarly his playful approach to the C sharp minor is in strong contrast to Fliter’s. Rather than his pursuance of narrative, she seems more interested in colouristic possibilities, the play of left and right hand against each other, in the oppositional tugs in the music. This indeed seems a strong component of the reading as a whole where some truly vertiginous contrasts between adjacent Preludes are explored. This is interpretation ‘to the max’ – try the volcanic eruption of the E flat minor after the F sharp minor Lento to hear what I mean. There’s no gainsaying her brilliant B flat minor where she finds a driven, manic quality but Cortot, less obviously virtuosic, occasionally struggling technically, manages to find beyond the notes a true sense of narrative depiction in which the rhythmic and colouristic devices are partners, not the driving forces of the music-making. There’s aggression in the F minor and a rather dragged-out C minor Largo. She explores some gorgeous treble colour in the penultimate Prelude before a torrential conclusion to the cycle.

This is certainly a combustible, alive set of the Preludes. Technical difficulties are overcome with assurance and the music’s extremes – of pathos and almost-mania – are both explored. So too are questions of left-hand patterns, often too much so, and the play of left and right hands. Her pedalling will be contentious too. What sometimes disappointed me is the narrative question, which I felt was not truly pursued, or was less central to her than the more ear-titillating matters of sonority: this and the battering she sometimes gives to several of the preludes.

She also selected five Mazurkas and these, perhaps because less is at stake in terms of narrative, are more pliant and even-handed examples of her playing. Here lyricism is unforced and rhythms sway deftly and affectionately. It’s only when one turns to an incorrigible master of the Old School, like Ignaz Friedman, that one hears how the invocation of a more daring rhythmic instability – in the C sharp minor – brings the Mazurka even more deliciously to life. Sensibly she also plays the Op.9 No.3 Nocturne as it’s not one of the best-known, and concludes the recital with the D flat major Nocturne, Op.27 No.2, by no means an obvious choice but in the circumstances aptly delicate.

The booklet notes are excellent, the performances highly personalised.

Jonathan Woolf
Previous review: Roy Westbrook


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