Chopin: Scherzo No.1; Scherzo No. 2; Scherzo No. 3; Scherzo No. 4; Fantaisie in F minor, Op. 49; Polonaise in C sharp minor, Op. 26/1; Waltz in F, Op. 34/3

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Chopin
LABELS: Koch
WORKS: Scherzo No.1; Scherzo No. 2; Scherzo No. 3; Scherzo No. 4; Fantaisie in F minor, Op. 49; Polonaise in C sharp minor, Op. 26/1; Waltz in F, Op. 34/3
PERFORMER: Anna Gourari (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 3-1430-2
Definitely an interesting pianist, and this recording of the Chopin Scherzos is better than most. The problem is their repetitious nature, which Anna Gourari does nothing to hide by playing the same thing the same way when it comes round a second time, and even beyond. It wouldn’t matter if she had not so obviously calculated every expressive detail rather than leaving room for spontaneous feeling. Granted that every idea is beautiful in itself, altogether the result is a bit like interpretation by numbers. The other problem is Gourari’s excessive love of lingering over the most delicate piano passages – she plays the middle sections of the First and Second scherzos as if they were distant recollections of barely remembered music rather than the thing itself, and the way she almost fades out the final appearance of the chorale in the Third Scherzo seems affected. If the distinguished jury at the Clara Schumann Competition in Düsseldorf praised her ‘almost mystical’ quality, it seems to have gone to her head. What she should pay attention to – unless it’s the recording engineer’s fault – is developing the strength of her right hand in rapid articulation, which is surprisingly weak in the opening surges of the First Scherzo, and also to sustaining a sense of forward impulse throughout a whole piece, which on this disc she never quite succeeds in doing. The outstanding version of the Scherzos is on Mikhail Pletnev’s live Carnegie Hall recital disc, a very rare example of a performance in which the music seems to be created there and then. Adrian Jack

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