Chopin: Piano Sonata No. 2 (Marche funèbre); Nocturnes Nos 16-19; Scherzos Nos 1-4

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COMPOSERS: Chopin
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Piano Sonata No. 2 (Marche funèbre); Nocturnes Nos 16-19; Scherzos Nos 1-4
PERFORMER: Louis Lortie (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 10588

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Louis Lortie’s new disc – the first volume of his Chopin cycle on Chandos – gets off to a gentle start with the E minor Nocturne, Op. 72 No. 1. Despite that high opus number, it’s an early and straightforwardly poetic work.

From there, Lortie shows flashes of virtuosity with the Scherzo in B minor, finding space for the dreaminess of the middle section. 

In Lortie’s satisfying programme, the four Scherzos are each prefaced with a Nocturne in a related key.

Highlights from this sequence include the B flat minor Scherzo, which lives playfully up to its name, and the B major Nocturne, Op. 62 No. 1, where Lortie captures the unpredictable, dream-like suspense very well.

Rounding off the recital is the big B flat minor Sonata, and the French-Canadian pianist injects momentum from the start, keeping up the heroic spirit with a striving scherzo. After the funeral march, the idiosyncratic finale is less blurry than usual – perhaps too clear to be that chill wind blowing over the graveyard.

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Lortie’s musicianship is imaginative but never eccentric, with a technique that is always at the service of the music. John Allison