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Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Études, Op. 10 [30:07]
Études, Op. 25 [33:24]
Trois nouvelles études [6:52]
Alessandro Deljavan (piano)
rec. 4-5 January 2015, Kulturni Center “Lojze Bratuz”, Gorizia, Italy

Alessandro Deljavan brings a great deal of his own ideas to the Chopin études; one might call him an interventionist. There’s no obvious example than the famous “Tristesse,” Op. 10 No. 3, which Deljavan pulls in every direction with his finicky rubato and arch pauses. In general, the slow études show off Deljavan’s exquisite soft touch, like the long, lovely nocturne-like piece in C sharp minor, Op. 25 No. 7. These slower moments are also almost all rhythmically inconsistent, since the pianist believes in a Chopin playing style which embraces liberal indulgences by the performer.

This will cause some listeners to fall hard for Deljavan’s style, which after aspires to the early 20th century ideals of bigness, lyrical beauty, and striking individualism. It will also give other listeners heartburn. There’s no reason to worry about his technical skills, which are formidable and well-used; in the fast études he is rock-solid. But even then, skeptics will pick apart Deljavan’s ever-changing dynamics; it’s good to add variety to the writing by varying the volume level and avoiding one consistent forte, but some of his choices feel unnatural.

For this listener, the disc is thus full of distractions. Another new Chopin étude set, by Zlata Chochieva on Piano Classics, may be more blunt, just-the-facts, an “objective” approach. But Chochieva’s straightforward confidence can be dazzling, and she doesn’t have some of the tics which infect Deljavan’s playing, like his insistence on pausing for a fraction of a second between every phrase of Op. 10 No. 11.

Not all of the Chopin études are among his most musical, or expressive, masterworks. They can seem a little like junk food in comparison to the ballades, preludes, and nocturnes. One way for a pianist to overcome this problem is to accept the études as they are and play them straightforwardly but with dazzling physical strength. This is the approach of Zlata Chochieva, David Stanhope, and, often, of young Maurizio Pollini. Another option is for the artist to carefully use his or her discretion and good taste to present a new vision of the works. Alessandro Deljavan tries very hard to make this approach work for him. Whether it does or not is a question each listener will have to judge.

Brian Reinhart



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