Chopin: Piano Sonata No. 1 in C minor Op. 4; ‘Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor Op. 35; ‘Piano Sonata No. 3 in B minor Op. 58

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COMPOSERS: Chopin
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: Piano Sonata No. 1 in C minor Op. 4; ‘Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor Op. 35; ‘Piano Sonata No. 3 in B minor Op. 58
PERFORMER: Cyprien Katsaris (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: SK 48483 DDD
Chopin only composed three piano sonatas, perhaps feeling that there was little more to be said so soon after Beethoven or that this quintessentially Classical form was unsuited to his passionate Romanticism. After one youthful attempt (Op. 4), he abandoned the form for ten years, yet when he did return he was to compose some of his most involved and intense music, and certainly his longest pieces for solo piano.

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This new recording from the French-born pianist Cyprien Katsaris happily includes the first and least famous sonata, based round experiments in counterpoint, with a restless energy and harmonic boldness that anticipate the mature Chopin. Katsaris gives assured accounts of the two later sonatas, with a generally judicious use of rubato, and he manages to convey Chopin’s intense lyricism without undue sentimentality; indeed, Katsaris’s readings are particularly alert to the wit of the music, especially in the scherzos and fleeting finales. Moreover, the contrasts between and within the movements are well-judged, as in the alternating grandeur and intimacy of the famous Funeral March from the B flat Sonata. The sound quality is clear and close, although there is perhaps too little resonance, and if Katsaris doesn’t quite possess the tenderness or epic flair of Rubinstein or Ashkenazy, having the three sonatas together on one disc makes this a worthwhile purchase. William Humphreys-Jones