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LABELS: Avi Music
WORKS: Piano Sonata No. 2; Ballade No. 1; 2 Nocturnes, Op. 9; 2 Nocturnes, Op. 27; Scherzo No. 1; 2 Nocturnes, Op. Posth.
PERFORMER: Lars Vogt (piano)


In an interesting liner-note interview accompanying this, his first Chopin recording, Lars Vogt talks about different approaches to the composer’s music, yet never quite spells out what different national schools of playing might mean in all of this. Though German interest in Chopin’s music goes right back to Robert and Clara Schumann, and notable Chopin interpreters have included such great German pianists as Walter Gieseking and Wilhelm Backhaus, it’s not unfair to say that when it comes to the Polish master, German pianists have been stronger on matters of form and content than ‘zal’, the Polish word evoking soulful suffering.

So perhaps it is hardly surprising that, for all his good intentions, Vogt’s account of the Second Sonata misses the mark a little. The unity of this work is something more to be experienced than analysed, and Vogt’s playing is big-boned and broad, almost Brahmsian in the deliberateness of the scherzo. The funeral march makes its effect but lacks elegant restraint, and the ‘wind over the graveyard’ finale is slightly pedestrian. Similarly, the Ballade No. 1 is pensive and poetic, but doggedly slow rather than magical – the musical equivalent of the difference between sauerkraut and the Polish dish kapusta.

What makes the disc worth hearing, apart from a brilliantly steel-fingered Scherzo No. 1, is Vogt’s way with six of the Nocturnes, where he does sound at home in Chopin. All flow very naturally, and his exquisite playing of the posthumously published C sharp minor Nocturne is gentle and introverted to a rare degree.


John Allison