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Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Complete waltzes
Louis Lortie (piano)
rec. 2011-14, Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk, UK
CHANDOS CHAN 10852 [83:20]

Louis Lortie’s Chopin series reaches a new height with this utterly charming, idiomatic recital of the complete waltzes. Plus, he adds a handful of nocturnes, and the result is a jam-packed 83-minute CD.

It’s easier to talk about bad performances of the Chopin waltzes, than it is to talk about good ones. With the bad ones, you can fault square rhythms or bland colors or an excess of treacle. With the good performances, all I can really report is how happy listening made me feel and listening to Lortie play the Chopin waltzes makes me very happy. He’s fun, energetic, charming, every quality you need to be to play this music well. This is idiomatic French playing, the kind you associate with Alexandre Tharaud or Arthur Rubinstein. He’s good in both the minor- and major-key waltzes. For example, in the A minor waltz Op. 34 No. 2, Lortie doesn’t mope too much, smartly making sure you never lose track of the waltz rhythm under the melancholy.

Another treat: Lortie plays the waltzes in his own selected order, not by opus number or composition date. This gives him freedom to generate contrasts and defy any expectations your ears might have. For example, Chopin’s tragic first nocturne (Op. 9 No. 1) is immediately followed up by the “Minute” waltz. Alexandre Tharaud, by the way, also selected his own ordering, and also used the stratagem of preceding the “Minute” with a B minor piece — but a waltz, on his disc. It was an idea so nice, it worked well twice.

I had some reservations about an earlier album in this series, so I’m overjoyed to have none whatsoever about this one. As far as the nocturnes go, Lortie does those very well too. My favourite nocturne of all, No. 21 (?) in C sharp minor, gets a tiny bit of improvised ornamentation, the only such indulgence Lortie allows himself on this disc. It’s tastefully done and fits in well.

So, with the Chandos booklet and sound at their usual very high standard, this kicks Lortie’s Chopin series up to a higher level. About the sound: this was recorded over three entire years, but there’s no way you’d be able to tell it wasn’t one seamless session. It’s testimony to producer/engineer/Chandos label boss Ralph Couzens. I’m going to be listening with keen interest from now on, and in hindsight maybe the earlier discs were better than I thought. This disc is terrific fun.

Brian Reinhart

Waltz No.19 in A minor, Op.posth. [2:28]
Waltz No.14 in E Minor, Op.posth. [2:41]
Waltz No.15 in E, Op.posth. [1:50]
Waltz No.10 in B Minor, Op.69, No.2 [2:56]
Waltz No.17 in E-Flat, Op.posth. [2:13]
Waltz No.11 in G-Flat, Op.70, No.1 [2:04]
Waltz No.12 in F Minor, Op.70, No.2 [2:34]
Waltz No.13 in D-Flat, Op.70, No.3 [2:31]
Waltz No.18 in E-Flat, Op.posth., ‘Sostenuto’ [1:50 ]
Waltz No.1 in E-Flat, Op.18, ‘Grande valse brillante’ [4:57]
Waltz No.16 in A-Flat, Op.posth. [1:36]
Waltz No.2 in A-Flat, Op.34, No.1, ‘Valse brillante’ [5:01]
Waltz No.3 in A Minor, Op.34, No.2, ‘Valse brillante’ [5:16]
Waltz No.4 in F, Op.34, No.3, ‘Valse brillante’ [2:08]
Waltz No.9 in A-Flat, Op.69, No.1, ‘L'adieu’ [3:42]
Waltz No.5 in A-Flat, Op.42 [3:42]
Nocturne No.1 in B-Flat Minor, Op.9, No.1 [5:50]
Waltz No.6 in D-Flat, Op.64, No.1, ‘Minute’ [1:40]
Nocturne No.20 in C-Sharp Minor, Op.posth. [4:07]
Nocturne No.9 in B, Op.32, No.1 [5:07]
Waltz No.7 in C-Sharp Minor, Op.64, No.2 [3:09]
Waltz No.8 in A-Flat, Op.64, No.3 [2:42]
Nocturne No.11 in G Minor, Op.37, No.1 [6:30]
Nocturne No.12 in G, Op.37, No.2 [5:40]

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