Chopin: Études, Opp. 10 & 25

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WORKS: Études, Opp. 10 & 25
PERFORMER: Murray Perahia (piano)
Murray Perahia has waited a long time to record the two complete sets of Chopin studies and the wait has certainly been worth it. Not only are these 24 pieces still the cornerstone of modern piano technique, but they are also – and it’s been said often enough – great music which satisfies our deepest spiritual needs, whose textural innovations and harmonic adventures still amaze. It’s very much as music, to be considered in depth, that Perahia approaches the pieces, so that they accumulate as an emotional experience, not just as a physical marathon. When heard as the homecoming after this odyssey, the sumptuous C minor Study defies a sequel, which is, perhaps, why Perahia hasn’t added the three lovely Nouvelles études, though there would have been room for them. His intentions are clear in the very first Study, where he brings a sense of awareness to the bass as the guiding intelligence behind the brilliant figuration in the right hand and, overall, unusually expressive variations of volume. The melancholy Sixth Study comes as a lovely surprise, taken here at a more flowing tempo than most pianists adopt. Technically, there is no sense of strain anywhere, though you might think the ‘Butterfly’ Study (Op. 25/9) a bit robust compared with Nelson Freire’s casual charm. But then Perahia is not that sort of pianist. There’s always something like a sense of moral probity in his playing, if not always quite the sense of pleasure he captures here.