Chopin: Piano Sonata No. 1; Violin Sonata No. 2; Four Mazurkas, Op. 17; Études, Op. 10/6, Op. 25/3, 4, 10 & 11

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COMPOSERS: Chopin
LABELS: Virgin
WORKS: Piano Sonata No. 1; Violin Sonata No. 2; Four Mazurkas, Op. 17; Études, Op. 10/6, Op. 25/3, 4, 10 & 11
PERFORMER: Leif Ove Andsnes (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: VBD 5 61618 2 Reissue (1992)
Like Ashkenazy, his closest rival if you want all three sonatas (the First is a rarity on disc), Andsnes turns in performances of the highest calibre. Unlike Ashkenazy (or rather, unlike Decca), he gives us four mazurkas and five études as well, all up to the same standard. These are performances of uncompromising integrity, which develop organically, tracing an unbroken line from first note to last in every piece, every movement. In nuance of phrase, clarity of texture, colouristic range and rhythmic momentum, Andsnes need bow to no one. Pianistically and structurally commanding, dramatically conceived and impressively recorded, these are all accounts which put him right up there with Ashkenazy, Pollini, Perahia, Rubinstein and so on. For me, however, greatly though I admire all of these, the benchmark for the two ‘mature’ sonatas remains Alfred Cortot’s spellbinding and revelatory recordings, set down some 70 years ago. And with him you get all four Ballades plus a nocturne as well. Simply unbeatable. Jeremy Siepmann

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