Chopin: Ballades No. 1 in G minor; Ballade No. 3 in A flat; Scherzo No. 2 in B flat minor; Scherzo No. 3 in C sharp minor; Fantaisie in F minor, Op. 49; Berceuse, Op. 57

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COMPOSERS: Chopin
LABELS: Master Musicians
WORKS: Ballades No. 1 in G minor; Ballade No. 3 in A flat; Scherzo No. 2 in B flat minor; Scherzo No. 3 in C sharp minor; Fantaisie in F minor, Op. 49; Berceuse, Op. 57
PERFORMER: Jonathan Plowright (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ESCD 001 DDD
The Master Musicians recitals which take place regularly at North Shields have traditionally featured pianists who have won prizes at the major international competitions, such as the Tchaikovsky and the Leeds. Now the Master Musicians label has issued its first CD, an attractive selection of Chopin, played by the much respected Jonathan Plowright and recorded in the 36-track Hopkins Studio at Newcastle University. The ambience is warm without being over-resonant and it serves Plowright well. His interpretations generally are big-boned, and he has an uncanny knack of making the most familiar music sound fresh and interesting without taking undue liberties.

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In the First Ballade he finds plenty of contrast between the agitated and the leisurely, finishing with a turbulent Presto and a dramatic coda. The so-called Fantaisie in F minor (actually it’s in strict sonata form) reveals his skill in combining smooth melody with staccato bass and in finding the right balance between the stolid introduction and the later passion. By contrast, the Berceuse is elegant if slightly hasty, while the Third Scherzo contains some delicately fluttering responses to the lines of the chorale and a bravura coda thrown off without apparent effort. Wadham Sutton