Chopin: 9 Polonaises

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COMPOSERS: Chopin
LABELS: Opus 111 Invitation
WORKS: 9 Polonaises
PERFORMER: Janusz Olejniczak (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: Invitation OPS 10-005 Reissue (1991)
There are not many good complete recordings of Chopin’s dances in the current catalogue, so] a big welcome to the Philips compilation of the Polonaises and Waltzes – not quite all the Waltzes, though only anoraks will complain about the minor omissions.

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Adam Harasiewicz won the Warsaw Chopin Competition in 1955, preceding Pollini [in 1960] and Argerich [in 1965]. I have no hesitation in making this issue my benchmark for both Polonaises and Waltzes. Harasiewicz has an impeccable sense of style – just listen to the crisp edge he gives the opening of the “Military” Polonaise, Op. 40 no. 1 – and he also has an acute poetic sense – as in the gloomy fatalism which hangs over the E flat minor Polonaise, Op. 26/2.

His command of Chopin’s virtuoso decorative writing is superb, too – he revels in it – and he’s one of the very few pianists to solve the riddle of the problematic Polonaise-Fantaisie, taking the listener through it without any uncertainty.

In the Polonaises Harasiewicz keeps a sense of dignified poise. In the Waltzes, on the other hand, he is irresistibly physical, even punchy, while characterising contrasted sections with a brilliant sense of character.

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Janusz Olejniczak is also a refined and sensitive pianist, and he does some romantically poetic things in the F sharp minor Polonaise, Op.44. He is less impressive in the “Heroic” Polonaise, Op.53, which suffers from obvious manipulations of volume level by the engineers. Here and in the Andante spianato, Olejniczak is sometimes fastidious in the wrong way – like a blackbird pecking at a worm. Not the way to treat Chopin. Adrian Jack