Nicholas Angelich: Dedication

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COMPOSERS: Chopin,Liszt,Schumann
LABELS: Erato
ALBUM TITLE: Dedication
WORKS: Liszt: Piano Sonata in B minor; Schumann: Kreisleriana, Op. 16; Chopin: Etudes, Op. 10/10 & 12
PERFORMER: Nicholas Angelich (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 90295 99067  

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There’s a neat circularity in the idea on which this CD is based: Liszt dedicated his Sonata to Schumann, who dedicated his Kreisleriana to Chopin, who dedicated his first book of Etudes to Liszt; all three composers were born within a year of each other. But the circle would not have worked anti-clockwise – Chopin would never have deigned to dedicate a piece to Schumann – and a balanced implementation of the idea would not have fitted onto one CD: hence we only get two of those 12 etudes, leaving Chopin’s contribution at half-cock.

Angelich’s entry into the Liszt is cool and measured, with passagework of Chopinesque delicacy, and we wait a fill eight minutes before there’s any hint of passion. The impeccably-articulated pianism suggests that he’s savouring the beauty of a landscape through which he’s travelling, with all emotion recollected in tranquility, and the momentum which should power this tempestuous work is lost.

When he tackles Kreisleriana in the same way, you realise the limitations of this approach. There’s no excitement in the opening flourishes, which are dainty rather than äusserst bewegt (‘extremely animated’), and so it goes on, with none of the helter-skelter urgency that the fast movements demand. This means that they lose the necessary contrast with the slow movements which, when marked sehr langsam, drift almost interminably. Schumann’s sehr aufgeregt (‘very agitated’) might here read ‘meandering prettily’.

The first Chopin etude is silky, the second offers proof that Angelich can indeed do passion. It’s just a pity that with the big works he chooses not to.

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Michael Church