Chopin: Etudes, Op. 10; Rondos, Opp. 1, 5, 16 & 73

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Chopin
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Etudes, Op. 10; Rondos, Opp. 1, 5, 16 & 73
PERFORMER: Frederic Chiu (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 907201
A curate’s egg of a Chopin disc. The most interesting thing about it is the presence of the Rondos, deeply Chopinesque works that get played and recorded very infrequently. They are mostly delightful pieces, light, virtuosic and melodic — and Op. 73 in C is given in two versions, the second being for two pianos (if there was a second pianist here, he or she is uncredited — I’m assuming, therefore, that Chiu recorded both parts himself with double tracking). Chiu’s playing is brilliant and lively, if a little driven in its rhythmic strictness at times.

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Chiu is certainly an accomplished virtuoso pianist. But when Chopin’s fitudes actually sound like studies, it’s a sign that something isn’t quite right interpretatively. The slow Etudes, Nos 3 and 6, lack a sense of onward flow; No. 4 is positively bombastic; and No. 10 seems to have given Chiu some problems with voicing at the start, which leaves the first few phrases feeling uncomfortably incoherent. There is a measure of immediacy and extroversion, and some imaginative moments (in No. 2 and the limpidly played No. 11 – not enough elsewhere, though), all of which makes for some excitement along the way. The whole is not helped by a hard, bright piano

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sound recorded with some woolliness of ambience. Jessica Duchen