LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Fantasy in F minor, Op. 49; Polonaise in F sharp minor, Op. 44; Nocturnes, Op. 27/1 & 2, Op. 32/2; Waltzes, Op. 34/1 & 2, Op. 42; Scherzo in B flat minor, Op. 32
PERFORMER: Evgeny Kissin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 60445 2 DDD
Perhaps the most startlingly original item here is the Op. 44 Polonaise, a work that shows how seriously and dramatically Chopin was treating a genre that had traditionally been regarded as essentially a salon piece. Chopin’s piece is actually something of a hybrid: its central section is in the style of a nostalgic mazurka, and the transition to the return of the polonaise material is extraordinarily dark and menacing. Scarcely less innovative are the two other large-scale works on the disc: the Fantasy, Op. 49, and the Scherzo in B flat minor. Both finish in a key other than that of their starting-point, thus anticipating the type of ‘progressive’ tonality favoured by a much later generation of composers.
Kissin’s performances, recorded last year at a Carnegie Hall concert, are splendidly assured, and his approach to the music is unfailingly imaginative – forcibly so in such pieces as the Polonaise, where Chopin gives the player very little guidance as to tempi and dynamics. The recorded sound, alas, is hard and uningratiating. No doubt a close microphone balance minimises the risk of intrusive audience noise, but the price is high in terms of listening comfort in the home. Misha Donat