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Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Ballade No. 1 [11:31]
Nocturnes Op. 9 Nos. 1 and 2 [10:44]
Scherzo No. 1 [10:35]
Two Nocturnes Op. 27 [12:03]
Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor [27:24]
Two Nocturnes Op. Posth. [7:17]
Lars Vogt (piano)
rec. March 2013, Deutschlandfunk Kammermusicsaal, Cologne, Germany
C-AVI MUSIC 8553267 [79:35]

Lars Vogt’s Chopin recital had the misfortune of appearing at the same time as David Wilde’s (Delphian DCD34010 and 34138 - review). Vogt’s Chopin is individual and idiosyncratic but not nearly as individual or weird as Wilde’s. Although Vogt is very good in his own right, he is in danger of being overshadowed. Don’t make that mistake.

Vogt declares his artistic independence with the very first track, a long, slow take on Ballade No. 1 with dramatic pauses and an incredibly soft touch. Even in the introduction Vogt shows a willingness to “split” the rhythms of the left and right hands by the tiniest of gaps. This is the kind of performance admirers will praise for its abundant poetry and sensitivity, while doubters wonder if it’s too studied. The lightness of touch is something which separates Vogt from Wilde: Wilde’s album, recorded just after the death of his wife Jane, has a heavy tread, and a strong air of gloom. This disc feels more fragile, more precious. Vogt programs six of the twenty-one nocturnes, and he excels in the genre. No. 21, in C sharp minor, long my favourite, is also one of Vogt’s favourite encores, so he has had plenty of time to prepare this crystalline interpretation.

The Sonata No. 2 gets a slow, poetic account. Again, it’s not as eccentric as David Wilde’s, especially not in the funeral march, which Vogt takes with a much softer tread but eccentric it most definitely is. The two oddest touches are the feather-light finale, just not cold enough, and the first movement’s development section, which slows down to a crawl and quiets down to a murmur.

The recorded sound is excellent, and the booklet has a long interview with Vogt. His view of Chopin is interesting and compelling and he sells it well but is it too much of a good thing? Should you really play the Second Sonata’s outer movements the same way you play the nocturnes? Lars Vogt has the courage to try new things, which means we get to debate his choices without once being bored by them.

Brian Reinhart