Chopin/Godowsky/Berezovsky

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Chopin
Etudes, Opp.10 & 25 [selection]
Godowsky
Transcriptions of Chopin’s Etudes, Opp.10 & 25 [selection]

Boris Berezovsky (piano)

Recorded live on 19 & 20 April 2005 at The Maltings, Snape, Suffolk


Reviewed by: Michael McMillan

Reviewed: December 2005
CD No: WARNER CLASSICS
2564 62258-2
Duration: 55 minutes

Boris Berezovsky’s live recital places Godowsky’s re-workings of Chopin’s Etudes immediately after each Chopin original, affording the listener a convenient view of Godowsky’s transformation of them. Berezovsky selects the first six numbers from the Opus 10 set (with the exception of Number 3) as well as Number 12 (Revolutionary), then numbers 1 and 5 from Opus 25. The recital ends with a charming performance of Godowsky’s Alt-Wien and his paraphrase of Chopin’s ‘minute waltz’.

In his biography of Godowsky, Jeremy Nicholas writes that “it is unfortunate that a lot of uninformed nonsense has been written about these Chopin re-workings by those ignorant of Godowsky’s intent”, which was, in Godowsky’s own words, “to further the art of pianoforte playing”. He did so by giving especial attention to the technical development of the left-hand. The difficulties are considerable; for instance, the extended figurations in the right-hand of the first of the Opus 10 studies are mirrored simultaneously by the left in Godowsky’s transcription, whilst that of Opus 10/Number 4 is for the left-hand alone.

With this repertoire it is difficult to ignore Marc-André Hamelin’s recorded survey of all 53 of Godowsky’s published transcriptions (on Hyperion), and it is to Berezovsky’s credit that he yields no quarter to the recognised doyen of technique. If Opus 10/Number 4, as arranged for left-hand by Godowsky, feels a little slow it is only because it is played straight after such a rapid account of Chopin’s original, and, in fact, Berezovsky plays the left-hand version faster than Godowsky’s suggested metronome speed. And if Hamelin’s studio recording benefits from clearer sound, and an inevitably more relaxed and beautiful Opus 25/Number 1, Berezovsky’s all-or-nothing approach returns more exciting dividends in the helter-skelter of Opus 10/Number 1.

Berezovsky’s interpretations of Chopin’s (original) studies here included are now more characterful and personalised than those found on his previous (complete) recording. The ‘black key’ étude, for example, is tossed off with considerable panache, and he has the confidence to play with greater freedom and variety of touch in Opus 25/Number 5 than he did over a decade ago.

Those looking for a complete collection of Chopin studies should of course look elsewhere (Zayas and Pollini are favourites, as is Sokolov in Opus 25) – but if this programme appeals, this its acquisition can be made without hesitation.

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