COMPOSERS: Fryderyk Chopin
ALBUM TITLE: Chopin
WORKS: Ballades Nos. 1-4; Mazurka Opp. 17, 67 & 68; Waltz in D flat, Op. 64; Waltz in A flat, Op. 69; Largo in E flat; Polonaise in F sharp minor, Op. 44
PERFORMER: Jean Muller (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: FON-1005008
Jean Muller’s Chopin recital offers a satisfying range of works and a variety of expression to match. The young Luxembourg-born pianist has a strong sense of drama and detail, as well as fine fingers and a big-hearted conceptual approach. He’s perhaps at his best in the Mazurkas – a compliment to any Chopin player – where he allows the A minor work’s ineffable poetry its head. In the C major Op. 68 No. 1, meanwhile, he catches exactly the way that Chopin mixes folksy rhythm with refined artistry so as to create a distinctive world of his own.
The F sharp minor Polonaise forms a suitable climax, though Müller brings it more cannons than flowers (to misquote Schumann), and his fondness for cranking up the drama towards barnstorming proves a little excessive, since his tone hardens with the increasing volume. This also happens in the Fourth Ballade, which falls victim to too much loudness too soon on the impassioned return of the second subject. It’s a structural trap in performing this piece, and Müller falls right in.
In accordance with Fondamenta’s raison d’etre we get the whole programme twice over, once in ‘Fidelity’ mastering and once in ‘Mobility’ mastering – the former designed for hi-fi systems, the latter to be heard on computers, car and ‘nomad’ sound systems. The ‘Mobility’ version certainly proves its worth on my desktop, where it sounds unusually warm, rich and full.