ALBUM TITLE: Chopin
WORKS: Piano Sonata No. 3; Polonaise-Fantasy in A flat, Op. 61; Two Nocturnes, Op. 62
PERFORMER: Charles Richard-Hamelin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: AN 2 9127
A welcome newcomer to the seriously over-crowded international piano scene, Charles Richard-Hamelin (French-Canadian but no relation to Marc-André) is clearly a musician-pianist rather than the other way around. Not that he is in any way deficient as a pianist. Far from it. Fluent, multi-faceted and tonally seductive, he is a technician of exceptional elegance and sophistication. Part of that sophistication is his refusal to dazzle. Technique is at all times put to strictly musical ends. His playing repeatedly put me in mind of Chopin’s idol, Mozart, who prized the twin virtues of ‘taste and feeling’and said of piano-playing that it should ‘flow like oil’.
The playing here – quite strikingly in the outer movements of the B minor Sonata – is blessedly free of that metre-driven angularity and stasis that have increasingly beset performances over the past half-century. Melodic inflection is curvaceous, natural and discreetly sensuous; the tonal palette is unfailingly refined (a prime requirement in Chopin), and the pervasive polyphony of Chopin’s textures is eminently clear but never ostentatious. That said, Richard-Hamelin is not, on present evidence, a ‘big’ pianist, though the Third Sonata and Polonaise-Fantasy in A flat are some of Chopin’s biggest works: I feel an insufficiency of large-scale momentum and binding connections; I miss a truly epic sense of drama. Too many sentences; not enough paragraphs. But time is on his side.