Chopin: Ballade in F minor, Op. 52; Polonaise-fantaisie, Op. 61; Barcarolle, Op. 60; Berceuse, Op. 57; Nocturnes, Op. 62; Mazurkas, Op. 59; Waltzes, Op. 64

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Chopin
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Ballade in F minor, Op. 52; Polonaise-fantaisie, Op. 61; Barcarolle, Op. 60; Berceuse, Op. 57; Nocturnes, Op. 62; Mazurkas, Op. 59; Waltzes, Op. 64
PERFORMER: Vladimir Ashkenazy (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 466 708-2
Ashkenazy has never tried to disguise the fact that the piano is a percussion instrument with hammers. This new studio recording of some of Chopin’s later works, made in Finland in June 1999, has a brilliant, airy sound, and you’re very conscious of fingers tapping keys. There’s much delicate sotto voce and pearly tone, but the piano sound is hardly warm or melting. Yet the performances are very thoughtful, and with the possible exception of the expansive Barcarolle, pervaded by melancholy. Compared with other pianists, Ashkenazy doesn’t seek out novel points of emphasis – he plays the C sharp minor Waltz as it’s written, without thumbing a hidden inner melody in the right hand of the faster sections as some pianists do – but he finds a lot in the long opening section of the Fourth Ballade which eludes others, and delves deep into the exploratory Polonaise-fantaisie, though in the final sections of both pieces he tends to clatter. There’s a less than perfect trill, too, midway through the Minute Waltz, but otherwise his playing seems in good shape; above all, it’s heartening to hear so much feeling brought to this familiar music. Adrian Jack

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