Both sets of Chopin's etudes can be as fiendishly difficult for the performer as they are mesmerizing for the listener, yet Maurizio Pollini makes them sound as if they pose no problems whatsoever for him in this 1972 recording. Every one of the etudes is played with easy precision, energy, and an entirely enjoyable musicality that demonstrates why Chopin's etudes are no mere exercises and are as suited to the recital hall as to the practice room. The Op. 25 No. 5 Etude in E minor has some tricky finger acrobatics in it, but Pollini brings out a singing melody all the same in the middle section, while adding a bit of dancing animation to the outer sections…
I’ve had this Robert Schumann compilation from Brazilian pianist Guiomar Novaes for a half year now and keep coming back to it, always with the pleasure. Novaes presents balanced interpretations of some famous Schuman compositions; there’s nothing adventurous or idiosyncratic about her approach but they are musical and very winning.
Probably my two favorites performances are of the Papillons waltzes, Schumann’s Op. 2, and the big and beautiful Symphonic Variations. Novaes’ Papillons are charming and light without being lightweight. A heavier composition, the Symphonic Variations elicit an emotional reading from Novaes.
Berezovsky is a sadly under-rated player, even though he won the Tchakovsky Competition in 1990. His natural talent is given full vent in these Etudes. One must remember that these were studies written by Chopin, each one exploring a singular technical idea - the 'Revolutionary' a test of left-hand power and flexibility, Op.10 No.1 a study in right-hand stretches, etc. Thus in each piece, Berezovsky utilises a different aspect of his phenomenal technique and gives a demonstration of how they should be played. In the CD booklet, one critic accurately observes that Berezovsky 'knows there is plenty of time ahead of him'; and rightly so! In a musical world today where everyone thinks they need to flex their muscle in order to gain attention, Berezovsky carries on at his own pace, regardless. There is no need to play everything at breakneck speed as does Argerich where the tendency is to sink into a show of bad taste and pointless pyrotechnics.
Perhaps Szymanowski’s music is too cool and sophisticated ever to become popular. Even the third of his Op. 4 Studies, which Paderewski made famous, is less full-bodied than Scriabin’s early C sharp minor Étude, and while Scriabin believed in the madness of his later music, Szymanowski’s apparent abandon in his voluptuous period around the First World War is crafted with detachment. Dennis Lee clarifies the cascades of notes – or rather sonorities – in the two major sets, Métopes and Masques, so that these complex pieces are understood more easily than usual. The recorded sound is a bit thin and small, but clean.
Études are primarily intended as exercises to train musicians in specific techniques, but since the Romantic era they have become associated with other miniature forms, such as the prelude and the intermezzo, and frequently regarded as evocative character pieces or tonal pictures. Garrick Ohlsson's album of piano études by Claude Debussy, Sergey Prokofiev, and Béla Bartók offers a brief survey of the genre in modern practice, and demonstrates the blending of pedagogy and poetry in these works. Ohlsson has become internationally known as an exquisite interpreter of the music of Frédéric Chopin, and much of the subtlety and atmosphere found in his previous recordings is present here. Ohlsson's finesse and humor are perhaps most evident in Debussy's Études, L. 143, which have a lighter character than Prokofiev's Études, Op. 2, which tend toward the sardonic side, and Bartók's Études, Op. 18, which are intensely virtuosic and mysterious. Hyperion's recording captures the nuances of Ohlsson's playing, and the piano is close enough to hear every detail, while the acoustics lend it a pleasant natural aura.
"…Outstanding. I cannot recommend this disc highly enough." "…This is a remarkable recording which reveals Chopin in a new light." ~SA-CD.net