Chopin: 24 Preludes, Op. 28; Andante spianato & Grande Polonaise brillante, Op. 22; Barcarolle in F sharp, Op. 60

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COMPOSERS: Chopin
LABELS: Music & Arts
WORKS: 24 Preludes, Op. 28; Andante spianato & Grande Polonaise brillante, Op. 22; Barcarolle in F sharp, Op. 60
PERFORMER: Juana Zayas (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CD-1006
Chopin’s 28 Studies reveal not only a player’s technical strengths and weaknesses, but also the limits of his or her expressive range. Yuki Matsuzawa made her recording debut in 1994 with a Scriabin disc, highly praised in this magazine. Her Chopin disc gets off to a rather tame start, and she lacks panache in the fiery Revolutionary and Winter Wind studies. But there’s not much wanting elsewhere, and you hardly ever hear the slow E flat minor Étude, Op. 10/6, or C sharp minor, Op. 25/7, played with such eloquent simplicity. It’s also unusual to feel as if you are listening to many of these pieces for the first time, so fresh and clear is Matsuzawa’s conception.

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That quality of directness is precisely what is missing in the otherwise decent playing of Cuban-born Juana Zayas. The Grande Polonaise is one of Chopin’s most richly elaborated works, and Zayas finds it indigestible. In the Preludes and Barcarolle she has a habit of dillydallying, in a vain quest for expressive effect.

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Louis Lortie is more satisfying in both the Preludes and the Grande Polonaise, which is judicious and stylish, and he gives the Polonaise-Fantaisie a sense of gravitas. A shame about the clumsy recording. Adrian Jack