Chopin: Piano Sontats Nos 2 &3

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COMPOSERS: Chopin
LABELS: VAI
WORKS: Piano Sonatas Nos 2 & 3; Ballade No. 4; Fantasy in F minor; Barcarolle
PERFORMER: Alberto Reyes (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: VAIA 1271-2

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Here’s a fascinating and extremely beautiful Chopin recital, from a pianist of whom we’ve heard little in the past decades. Uruguyan-born Alberto Reyes presents both the big sonatas and some substantial shorter pieces in accounts that are unusual, personal and deeply rewarding. 

First, Reyes is not in a hurry. That doesn’t mean that he’s not a virtuoso – the magnificent finale of the B minor Sonata demonstrates his credentials at once. But he allows the music ample time to breathe, and for the listener to absorb the spacious phrasing and well-planned voicing (sometimes with hands out-of-sync, but judiciously so). His interpretations, furthermore, radiate a rare sense of wisdom and a rapt concentration.

The central section of the Funeral March, that of the F minor Fantasy and the slow movement of the B minor Sonata are cases in point: you are drawn inside a world of hypnotic profundity almost without realising it. The recorded sound complements the beauty of the playing.

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After an exciting start – prodigydom, prizes, etc – Reyes decided that neither the globe-trotting life of a virtuoso nor an academic job were for him. Instead, he became an interpreter for the United Nations, retiring in 2007 after three decades during which he gave only occasional concerts. Spending time amid vital international issues has perhaps made his playing all the richer. Jessica Duchen