Chopin, Liszt, Wagner

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Chopin,Liszt,Wagner
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Impromptu in A flat, Op. 29; Etude in C sharp minor, Op. 25/7; Mazurka in C sharp minor, Op. 15/3; Mazurka in F minor, Op. 68/4; Nocturne in G, Op. 37/2
PERFORMER: Byron Janis (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 56780 2
Janis made this recording last year, shortly after his 70th birthday. For a keyboard wizard, one-time pupil of Horowitz, who features in the Philips ‘Great pianists of the 20th Century’ series, he has chosen a surprisingly low-key programme. There’s nothing here of the sweeping passion of his classic Rachmaninoff Third Concerto recorded under Dorati’s baton (Mercury Living Presence). Technically, of course, he’s beyond reproach. What worries me is the interpretation. It’s well-known that Chopin introduced rubato into his playing, but he kept the left hand strictly in time. Here the music is more Janis than Chopin, the timing all over the place, the chords split until the mannerism becomes irritating. Janis dreams along as if whiling away the time in casual improvisation. And the ‘Yale Version’ of the Grande Valse Brillante (‘Waltz brilliante’ as it’s described here) differs markedly from the standard editions.

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The Liszt items are better, though still too rhythmically distorted for my taste – the Wagner transcription best, if a little eccentric.

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I am awarding my star rating on the basis that others may be less thrown by the interpretations than I am. But it may be an idea to play one or two tracks before buying this disc. Wadham Sutton