Chopin: Nocturnes (complete); Impromptus, Op. 29, 36 & 51; Fantaisie-Impromptu in C sharp minor, Op. 66

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LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Nocturnes (complete); Impromptus, Op. 29, 36 & 51; Fantaisie-Impromptu in C sharp minor, Op. 66
PERFORMER: Angela Hewitt (piano)
In a catalogue boasting many distinguished Chopin Nocturne cycles, Angela Hewitt’s commands attention in several respects. One is her choice of piano: a Fazioli grand whose pure, transparent sonorities evoke instruments of Chopin’s time. On it she achieves haunting, disembodied effects in long, sustained passages such as Op. 27 No. 1’s brooding opening section, Op. 55 No. 1’s dying-away coda and Op. 62 No. 1’s slow, sexy trills. The polyphonic acumen Hewitt displays in her Bach recordings serves her well in her pointed shaping of Chopin’s lilting left-hand arpeggiated patterns. Not surprisingly, she achieves marvellous equilibrium balancing Op. 55 No. 2’s duet writing with the accompaniment. And she introduces authentic yet rarely encountered embellishments to Op. 9/2’s thrice-familiar melody line. Sometimes Hewitt’s expressive aspirations yield unsettling results, compared with Ivan Moravec’s patient proportions (Nonesuch) or Maria João Pires’s unforced spontaneity (DG). Her fidgety rubato throughout the popular F sharp Nocturne (Op. 15 No. 2), for instance, makes it difficult to get a handle on the music’s steady pulse. Likewise, Hewitt anticipates the strettos of the B major, Op. 32 No. 1, softening their dramatic impact. On the other hand, she resolutely maintains the opening Largo of the C minor, Op. 48 No. 1, and projects the tumultuous central octaves within the context of Chopin’s melodic phrasing, rather than hammering them out like an étude. And the G minor, Op. 15 No. 3, elusively floats over the bar-lines in an offhand manner that extends to the concluding mazurka-like section. Arrestingly detailed, intense, yet somewhat studied performances of the four Impromptus (I prefer Earl Wild’s ravishing simplicity) fill out disc 2. As usual, Hewitt provides scholarly and personable booklet notes. Jed Distler