Chopin: Waltzes

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COMPOSERS: Chopin
LABELS: Erato
WORKS: Waltzes
PERFORMER: Jean-Bernard Pommier (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 4509-92887-2 DDD
Chopin’s waltzes are both extremely well known and curiously neglected. This is partly because too many aspiring pianists have laid their hands on them at a tender age and bludgeoned them to death (mea culpa), but also because they are a seemingly contradictory phenomenon, a sustained engagement between Romanticism and popularism. The waltzes were composed throughout Chopin’s career, from his earliest days in Warsaw, and within the tight formal constraints of the genre – and these pieces never forget they are dances – there is considerable variety, the music at times as vigorous as a mazurka, at times as dreamily lyrical as a nocturne. Jean-Bernard Pommier is an intelligent and sensitive interpreter. The waltzes are particularly vulnerable to excessive rubato and consequent mawkishness, but Pommier’s rhythmic security allows the rubato here rightly to exist as an organic part of the fluctuating stress of the dance. This recording will not supplant Lipatti’s or Ashkenazy’s, but nevertheless conjures up that potent melancholy of the dance-floor.

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Grigory Sokolov’s accounts of the B flat minor Second Sonata (Funeral March) and the second set of études were recorded live in St Petersburg and Paris, and retain some of the excitement of a live performance, though the sound is first too dry and then too close. Sokolov gives a passionate reading of the sonata, but might seem rather too indulgent for some tastes. William Humphreys-Jones