Chopin • Dutilleux
The young Romanian pianist Alexandra Dariescu has been winning something of a cult following. This recording is the first of three discs she is planning for Champs Hill Records, following the genre of the prelude from its conception (or rather, its emancipation) to the present day. Interposing three preludes by Dutilleux between Chopin’s set of 24, Op. 28, and two free-standing pieces Op. posth. and Op. 45, proves original and reasonably convincing, especially given Chopin’s place in the development of French music. The relatively small amount of space the Dutilleux occupies could risk it becoming a palate-cleanser; nevertheless, it’s a welcome chance to appreciate these too-rarely heard works, written between 1973 and 1994. Dutilleux’s music shows a truly exceptional feeling for the piano’s capabilities of timbre and sonority, and Dariescu rises to his challenge with aplomb.
Dariescu’s bigger test here is, of course, the ubiquitous Chopin. There’s much superb playing to enjoy: she is particularly good at creating atmosphere through her sound, which is cushioned, refined and beautifully balanced. The final Chopin Prelude, Op. 45 in C sharp minor, is a case in point: smoky, heat-hazed and full of understated yearning, everything evoked through quality of touch. In the roller-coaster dreamscapes of the Op. 28 set, though, the interpretation is less fulfilling overall; each piece is finely performed in itself, but in terms of large-scale concept and especially in terms of variety of imagination, she could go further. There is poetic beauty aplenty, but the richness of Chopin’s fleeting visions possibly needs to be complemented at the appropriate moments by something darker and more dangerous.