Chopin: 24 Preludes, Op. 28; Waltz in A flat, Op. 34/1; Waltz in F, Op. 34/3; Three Mazurkas, Op. 59; Nocturne in D flat, Op. 27/2; illustrated talks by Guy Johnson & Angela Lear

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Chopin
LABELS: Libra
WORKS: 24 Preludes, Op. 28; Waltz in A flat, Op. 34/1; Waltz in F, Op. 34/3; Three Mazurkas, Op. 59; Nocturne in D flat, Op. 27/2; illustrated talks by Guy Johnson & Angela Lear
PERFORMER: Angela Lear (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: MNU 2052 (distr. 020 8590 7380; www.libra-records.com)
Angela Lear’s latest release in her Chopin series is uneven. The recording acoustic varies a lot, too, from close and woolly to distant and a bit clangy. The finest thing is the Barcarolle, which she makes leisurely and grand with a real breath of authority. The Preludes are disappointing, and some of them, including the first, seem stodgy and laboured. Lear has labelled her series ‘The Original Chopin’, which only means she has consulted manuscripts and early editions, and seeks to remove some of the accretions of present-day performances. (She does not go so far as to use a period piano, however.) That is all very well, though if music is worth repeated listening, it is also worth renewed interpretation, and the idea that it should remain strictly within the composer’s expectations, so far as those can be assessed, is questionable. Lear is in danger of making a fetish of the text and losing sight of the music’s purpose. My benchmark for the Preludes is not, strictly speaking, comparable to Lear’s version, but represents a polar opposite. Recorded in 1942, Alfred Cortot grasped the essential character of each piece and put it across as if it were his own. Perhaps he was a bit too free with the Raindrop Prelude, and there are a few smudges elsewhere, but these are small blemishes in music-making which is really creative. Comparable to Lear’s scrupulous approach, though much better played, is Kevin Kenner’s fine recording on Accord ACD 014, not commercially distributed but available by phoning 01753 884655. Adrian Jack

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