Chopin: Chez Pleyel

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Chopin
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Chez Pleyel: Preludes, Op. 28 Nos 4, 9, 11, 13, 15, & Op. 45; Etudes, Op. 25 Nos 1, 2 & 12; Nocturnes, Op. 9 No. 2, Op. 27 No. 2, Op. 48; Mazurkas, KK IIb No. 5, Op. 41 Nos 2 & 3; Andante spianato, Op. 22; Ballade, Op. 47; Impromptu, Op. 51; Grande valse, Op. 42
PERFORMER: Alain Planès (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 902052

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Alain Planès creates an intense aural universe in this compelling recreation of a recital given by Chopin at the Salons Pleyel in Paris in 1842.

The CD considers not only the programme and the instrument  – a Pleyel dating from 1836 – but also the style of Chopin’s playing, as far as it’s possible to know through his pupils’ reminiscences.

All that’s missing are the contributions to that rare concert by the singer Pauline Viardot and the cellist Auguste Franchomme.

The programme presents a mixed bag of miniatures: handfuls of studies and preludes, a few mazurkas and nocturnes, one impromptu, one waltz, the Andante Spianato without its polonaise, and the Third Ballade.

The contrasts within the sequence are satisfying; each piece is allowed to emerge as a gem in its own right. And the piano itself is nothing if not distinctive. At best it has an eloquent, singing sound, with a slightly different character to each register and a patina of resonance set up by its overtones.

For the modern ear, the relatively narrow dynamic range does require some adjustment of expectation. 

But Planès himself works poetic magic, with wonderfully paced phrasing and a style of rubato replete with beautifully judged elasticity and grace; and he has explored Chopin’s approach to improvised ornamentation to tasteful effect.

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There’s not a meaningless note in the whole disc. Jessica Duchen