Chopin: 12 Études, Op. 25; Polonaise-fantaisie, Op. 61; Barcarolle in F sharp, Op. 60; Berceuse, Op. 57; Trois nouvelles études

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COMPOSERS: Chopin
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: 12 Études, Op. 25; Polonaise-fantaisie, Op. 61; Barcarolle in F sharp, Op. 60; Berceuse, Op. 57; Trois nouvelles études
PERFORMER: Frederic Chiu (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 907282
Frederic Chiu is a compelling pianist, and one blessed with a formidable technique: I don’t think I’ve ever heard the leaping chords of the A minor fourth Étude from Op. 25 played with quite such lightness and speed, or the murmuring thirds of the G sharp minor thrown off with greater apparent ease. Chiu is admirably expressive in the C sharp minor seventh Study, too, but there are times elsewhere when his analytical mind leads him to attempt to reveal all the music’s layers at the expense of its overall expressive effect. In the F major third Étude, for instance, he stresses the lower line of the right-hand part, and the result rather lacks gracefulness and elegance; while the Berceuse, Op. 57, is again rather overloaded with detail. Among rival versions of the Études, Pollini offers astonishing precision and clarity in such pieces as the F major, or the ‘Winter Wind’ (No. 11), but DG’s recording is uncomfortably close and hard. Preferable from a sonic point of view, and for the greater warmth of the playing itself, is Murray Perahia – generally more rhetorical than Chiu, and with stronger characterisation. But I certainly wouldn’t want to belittle Chiu’s achievement: there’s some really impressive playing here, and we also get the three Nouvelles études written for Moscheles’s piano method – not on the same level as the Op. 25 set by any means, but a worthwhile bonus nevertheless. The recording is rich and full, without losing sight of any detail in the playing. Misha Donat

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