WORKS: Waltzes & Nocturnes (selection)
PERFORMER: Louis Lortie (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 10852
Of the man, Liszt observed: ‘Chopin will give you almost everything – except himself.’ This was surely not true of the composer. The personality revealed in his music is enormous: both epic in its emotional-dramatic scope, and often searing in its intimacy. If this is less obvious in the waltzes than elsewhere, the explanation lies partially in the characteristics and limitations of the genre itself: all are in triple time (though there are times when Chopin cleverly makes us wonder); most fall naturally into the same general tempo, and almost all evoke the glittering Parisian salons where Chopin was the greatest star.
At his best here, Louis Lortie artfully reveals the hidden depths and emotional complexity behind the surface charm – witness the opening (‘little’) A minor and the familiar B minor waltzes. Key to this is a highly sophisticated and varied use of rubato, verging at times on the distractingly enigmatic (B minor waltz again).
In the darker, more intense reaches of Chopin’s psyche, however, some may feel an excessive reserve, as in the other, famous A minor waltz, where profundity sometimes yields to a decorous melancholy (‘fashionably’ correct, historically speaking, but frustrating nevertheless). In the more extended and less conventional nocturnes, freed from the generic constrictions of the waltzes, Lortie’s virtues consistently abound: impeccable elegance; a tonal palette of aristocratic refinement and variety; an apparently effortless virtuosity, deployed with exemplary discretion, and a gift for ‘vocal’ inflection which should be the envy of numerous rivals.