Chopin: Polonaise-Fantaisie

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COMPOSERS: Chopin
LABELS: Wigmore Hall Live
WORKS: Polonaise-Fantaisie; 2 Nocturnes, Op. 62; Andante spianato and Grande Polonaise; 12 Études; Prelude No. 24 in D minor etc
PERFORMER: Nelson Goerner (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: WHLive 0039

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Chopin’s unique and complex aesthetic world is both personal and universal. His music, which encompasses the entire range of expression, can be very effectively approached in many ways – from the feline neo-Mozartian to the canine proto-Brahmsian, from the French to the Slavic, from the Classical to the Romantic, from that of the dandy to that of the revolutionary.

In the second half of the last century, stylised poetry increasingly yielded to a kind of muscular puritanism. Nelson Goerner is having none of either. Nowhere is this more striking than in his extremely sophisticated account of the late, great Polonaise-Fantasy, which has seen numerous pianists come adrift in their attempts to fulfil and reconcile the two parts of the title.

The equilibrium he achieves between formality (polonaise) and extemporisation (fantasy) is exemplary. So are the breadth, refinement and deployment of his impeccably Chopinesque tonal palette. These virtues pervade the entire recital, in which high drama, psychological intensity and a Shakespearean range are conveyed without a hint of excess. 

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Also remarkable is the unforced illumination of Chopin’s special brand of polyphony. The only liability, indeed, is an occasional lapse of metric suppleness, as in the central section of Op. 10 No. 3 where too many mid-bar (and mid-phrase) accents impede large-scale movement and structural cohesion. As an introduction to Chopin this release would be hard to beat. Jeremy Siepmann