Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849) The Chronological Chopin
Scherzo No. 1 in B minor, Op. 20 (1831-32) [10:01]
Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23 [9:50]
24 Preludes, Op. 28 [37:31]
Scherzo No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 31 (1837) [11:08]
Ballade No. 2 in F major, Op. 38 [7:12]
Scherzo No. 3 in C sharp minor, Op. 39 (1839) [7:48]
Prelude in C sharp minor, Op. 45 [4:49]
Ballade No. 3 in A flat minor, Op. 47 [7:21]
Fantaisie in F minor, Op. 49 (1841) [13:06]
Ballade No. 4 in F minor, Op. 52 [11:27]
Scherzo No. 4 in E major, Op. 54 (1842) [12:08]
Berceuse in D flat major, Op. 57 (1843-44) [4:43]
Barcarolle in F sharp minor, Op. 60 (1846) [8:23]
Polonaise-Fantaisie in A flat major, Op. 61 [13:25]
Burkard Schliessmann (piano)
rec. June 2009-April 2015, Teldex Studios, Berlin
5.0 Surround DIVINE ART SACD DDC25752 [3 CDs: 57:41 + 51:28 + 50:09]
Burkard Schliessmann has enjoyed high critical esteem for his recordings and concert performances over the last decade or so. His Chopin survey is partial but chronological, and somewhat extravagantly spread over three discs when it could easily have fitted into two. Perhaps that would in some way have ensured that the attractive booklet didn’t slip its moorings from the staples of my copy.
The music, however, is the thing, even though the performer’s own notes make for telling, cogent and insightful reading. His survey includes recordings made between 2009 and 2015, though the Berlin location remains the same. I’ve read extravagantly supportive reviews of this set elsewhere and read of his Chopin playing characterised as Golden Age, rather as if Schliessmann was situated in the tradition of Godowsky, Levitzki or Cortot. For me his Preludes veer wildly from thoughtful to idiosyncratic – from the strangely swinging rhythm of the C major, the dull left hand in the A minor, through to the way he converts the G major to rather metronomic finger exercises. The F sharp minor is rather messy but much of his playing stays on the page even if he shows a comedic bent in the G sharp minor – whether it’s intended I’m not altogether sure. The Raindrop is perfectly reasonable but the B flat minor is laboured.
The Scherzos are uneven and are spread throughout the discs in their proper chronological place. The First is fine in the lyrical passages, more fallible in the more technically demanding ones. There are moments of awkwardness in the First Ballade. His second Scherzo and Ballade lack fluency and there’s a strange lack of seriousness in the runs of the Scherzo No.3. He is something of a comma pianist, forever making little punctuation points in his playing. The Fantasie is a particular example and his pedal work here is inclined to be choppy too.
I realise this reads like a litany of critical complaint. He can be sensitive and make a lovely sound. In the Barcarolle, Op.60, for instance, the conception is fine, the tone frequently admirable but little moments of rushing generate an imperfect effect. His awkward rubati afflict the Fourth Ballade where they sound like cuts in a film – abrupt, destructive.
His Steinway rings out well in the SACD 5.0 surround sound captured splendidly in the Teldex Studios. Nonetheless, I remain unconvinced by Schliessmann’s Chopin for both technical and stylistic reasons.