Chopin: Nocturnes

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LABELS: National Institute Fryderyk Chopin
WORKS: Nocturnes from Opp. 9, 15, 27, 32, 37, 55 & 72
PERFORMER: Dang Thai Son (piano)

Winner of the 1980 Chopin Competition – when he became the first Vietnamese pianist to triumph in a major international competition – Dang Thai Son has maintained close connections ever since with Chopin and Warsaw musical life. So it is fitting that his disc of Nocturnes should be one of the earliest releases in the Frederyk Chopin National Institute’s new ‘white label’ series, a projected collection of the composer’s complete works on modern instruments designed to complement the ‘black label’ series on pianos of Chopin’s day. Recorded on a Steinway, he gives us a very personal selection of 14 of the 21 Nocturnes (19 with opus numbers, plus two posthumously published).
Framed by the posthumous pieces, Dang Thai Son’s programme opens with the late, 1847 Nocturne in C minor and ends with the famous C sharp minor piece, which already in 1830 was able to offer a montage of self-quotations. Rather than structuring his sequence according to opus number or key, the pianist takes us through various expressive categories – a reminder that these works, though they share a twilit spirit, are all very distinct. His pianistic sound is based on warm singing lines, but he never stresses the bel canto inheritance at the expense of deeper musical substance. This recital is not just well-groomed Chopin playing: such episodes as the unusually stormy middle section of the Op. 55 No. 1 in F minor also demonstrate the pianist’s individuality. John Allison