Schumann • Liszt • Chopin

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Schumann; Liszt; Chopin
LABELS: Champs Hill Records
ALBUM TITLE: Schumann • Liszt • Chopin
WORKS: Schumann: Abegg Variations, Op. 1; Liszt: Ballade No. 2 in B minor, S171; Isolde’s Lieberstod from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, S447; Chopin: Andante Spianato & Grande Polonaise Brilliante; Ballade No. 4 in F minor
PERFORMER: Alexandra Dariescu (piano)


For her first recording, the young Romanian Alexandra Dariescu has chosen a demanding programme – both technically and musically challenging, and well recorded by a history of virtuosos. It’s a risky strategy for a debut disc, but overall it pays off. She is clearly a very musical player, with excellent instincts and a natural way of shaping the music, from her lovely phrasing to her broader articulation of structure. She is also fortunate to have been given a gorgeously balanced recording, although some might find its empty hall-like acoustic a touch reverberant.

The lyricism and breezy figurations of Schumann’s Abegg Variations suit Dariescu well, and the reflective episodes of Liszt’s Ballade No. 2 also reveal a sensitive musical imagination. The more demonstrative aspects of the Ballade could do with a greater sense of dramatic tension, or a more sharply etched rhetorical sweep, but her magnificently projected playing of Liszt’s Liebestod transcription hints that the Lisztian grand manner is very much within her grasp.

Rather more serious limitations are revealed elsewhere. In the Andante spianato and Grande Polonaise, Dariescu begins with a beautifully spun line; but for all her well-schooled resourcefulness and expressive warmth, the Polonaise sounds merely efficient rather than ebullient. Chopin’s F minor Ballade demands a different level of musical sophistication and overall Dariescu is enormously impressive; it’s true that the climax and notorious coda would benefit from more power and communicative force, but this is surely an interpretation that will develop. A very promising debut.


Tim Parry