WORKS: Ballade No. 1; Ballade No. 2; Ballade No. 3; Ballade No. 4; Nocturne in F, Op. 15 /1; Mazurkas; Études; Grande valse brillante in E flat, Op. 18; Grande valse in A flat, Op. 42
PERFORMER: Murray Perahia (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: SK64 399 DDD
In the past few years three extremely good recordings of Chopin’s four ballades have been issued by Krystian Zimerman, Andrei Gavrilov and Nicolai Demidenko. There’s no sense in saying which is best, for they are all remarkable. But Murray Perahia’s new version, recorded last June, is likely to please more people than anyone else’s. There are no eccentricities in his interpretations, nor are they without passion: they are profoundly judged and perfectly executed. You can quibble about details – for instance his rhythmic shaping of the opening of the Fourth Ballade seems self-conscious – but in all essentials the performances are beyond criticism and the playing is unsurpassed for its immaculate beauty.
After the ballades, the rest of the disc is a selection of shorter pieces. To sample Perahia’s astonishing delicacy, try the A minor Mazurka – and listen especially to the very end. For his strength and brilliance, sample the last étude on the disc. Adrian Jack