Ingolf Wunder: Chopin Recital

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2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Chopin
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Piano Sonata No. 3 in B minor; Polonaise-Fantaisie in A flat; Ballade No. 4 in F minor; Andante spianato in G – Grande polonaise brillante in E flat
PERFORMER: Ingolf Wunder (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: DG 477 9634

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Ingolf Wunder, 25, took second place in the Chopin Competition last year, is a multiple prizewinner and has attracted some rave reviews. DG has given the young Austrian an exclusive contract. This is the dangerously named Mr Wunder’s debut disc.

Wunder’s programme is a statement of big, serious intent: three out of four of the works are among Chopin’s most sophisticated philosophical creations, while the Andante spianato and Grande polonaise demands virtuosity and charm. Judging by this CD, I would have knocked Wunder out of the Polish competition’s first round.

Yes, his sound quality is beautiful and his voicing is carefully layered. But he plays the piano first, and Chopin second – indeed, in terms of conveying some sense of Chopin’s conceptual intent, he barely gets off the ground. For a start, the opening movement of the B minor Sonata is marked Allegro maestoso, but Wunder plays it virtually Andante.

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This approach is all too consistent: the flow of beautiful, ponderous episodes reduces these towering, poetic works to a series of pseudo-profound non-sequiturs. Tension, thread, architecture, argument, inspiration, real personality – where are they? Even in the climactic build-up and coda of the Fourth Ballade, where Wunder pulls out some stops, there’s something almost blinkered about the end result. Jessica Duchen