Haydn, Janácek, Chopin, Debussy

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COMPOSERS: Chopin,Debussy,Haydn,Janacek
LABELS: Hanssler
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Ivan Moravec
WORKS: Keyboard Sonata in D, Hob. XVI:37; Sonata 1.x.1905 (From the Street); In the Mists; Chopin: Preludes, Op. 28 (excerpts), ; Debussy: Ondine
PERFORMER: Ivan Moravec (piano)


Ivan Moravec is a great artist, a penetrating, infinitely sophisticated musician and a warm-hearted, communicative performer, yet he remains a connoisseur’s pianist. In some ways, he’s a rather old-fashioned player. His Mozart here (1963-82) is full of delicacy, extraordinarily imaginative ‘scoring’, and a wonderful wholeness of vision, but in its truly symphonic scope and lavish sound-world (quite unlike the exemplary Uchida’s on Philips), the very thought of the fortepiano, with its lean, crystalline, sometimes even astringent properties, never arises. Moravec is a ‘big’ player, with a deep love and all-encompassing command of the modern concert grand. This does not mean, however, that he plays Mozart as though it were Beethoven, or as Chopin may have played it. He doesn’t Romanticise the music, but he never forgets for an instant that Mozart was quintessentially an opera composer. In addition to its abundant singingness of tone and phrase, the playing is a treasure house of subtle and interactive characterisations. Come to that, so is his Chopin (1965-9). This, however, he does Romanticise, with a degree and ubiquity of rhythmic freedom which gives little hint that Chopin’s favourite composers were Mozart and Bach, and that his own prescription for rubato was virtually identical to Mozart’s. For my tastes, it’s over-interpreted, but never indiscriminate or less than deeply considered, and the tonal palette is unsurpassed in its range and variety. No one, however, has more perfectly captured the blend of the Classical and Romantic in Chopin than Murray Perahia, whose account of the Ballades on Sony is just this side of definitive (just this side only because definitive interpretation is a fiction). A gap of more than 30 years separates most of these reissues from the ‘live’ recital of 2000, which finds Moravec in less luxuriant but no less concentrated form, the Janácek being especially haunting. Jeremy Siepmann