Chopin
Ballade in F minor, Op.52
Berceuse, Op.57
Mazurkas in A minor, A flat & F sharp minor, Op.59
Barcarolle, Op.60
Polonaise in A flat, Op.61 (Polonaise-fantaisie)
Nocturnes in B & E, Op.62
Waltzes in D flat, C sharp minor & A flat, Op.64
Vladimir Ashkenazy (piano)
CD No: DECCA 466 708-2
Duration:
Reviewed: May 2002
When I spoke to Vladimir Ashkenazy recently he told me that ’late’ Chopin is a “very special world”. This is what he offers in a recording made in 1999 – interpretations with particular regard to balancing the music’s lucid structures with paragraphs of expressive eloquence and harmonic intensity.
Ashkenazy’s view of Chopin is direct. He does not introduce false intensity or shape the melodies thinking them from the salon or with intent to smooth-talk the audience – though some listeners may be disappointed by Ashkenazy’s uncompromising approach.
Whether in the Barcarolle’s breadth, the Ballade’s virtuosity and poetic warmth, the waltzes’ vivacity or the web of fantasy that threads itself through the mazurkas – the 50-plus of which are perhaps Chopin’s most personal and enigmatic contribution to piano literature – Ashkenazy’s characteristic honesty is compelling.
In terms of technique, Ashkenazy has to work hard these days to achieve his intentions. While there is a sense of struggle in his playing, Ashkenazy’s commitment is palpable, as is his concern to eschew artifice in the music. Chopin and Ashkenazy both emerge as unaffected, the former truth-telling, the latter truth-seeking.
Although the piano sound lacks a little body, the instrument being balanced closely in a neutral, uncoloured acoustic heightens the music’s communication to document Chopin renditions both serious and deeply felt.

 

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