Seoing-Jin Cho performs Chopin preludes, sonatas and nocturnes

This music seems to flow out of him with such relaxed and elegant perfection

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Frédéric Chopin
LABELS: Deutsche Grammophon
ALBUM TITLE: Seong-Jin Cho
WORKS: Preludes, Op. 28, Piano Sonata No. 2, Nocturne in C minor in B flat minor, Op. 48/1 (Funeral March), Polonaise in A flat, Op. 53
PERFORMER: Seoing-Jin Cho
CATALOGUE NO: DG 479 5332

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Chopin’s Preludes constitute a neat riposte to JS Bach’s 48 Preludes and Fugues through the perfect arc which they describe – following a plan of descending thirds, each major prelude is followed by one in its relative minor. They share the same opus number, yet they were composed over an eight-year span, beginning with the second (and also maybe the last) in 1831, and ending in a concerted rush during Chopin’s sojourn with George Sand in Majorca. Some of them are nocturnes, others are mazurkas, caprices, etudes, or quasi-improvisations, and each inhabits its own soundworld, but the cumulative effect is best evoked by Baudelaire’s simile of ‘a brilliant bird hovering over an abyss of horrors’. The technical challenges to the performer are outweighed by the aesthetic one – to honour the uniqueness of each piece and to reflect the coherence of the whole.

Twenty-two-year-old Seong-Jin Cho is represented by the remarkable live recording made of his winning performance at the Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw last October, and he really is phenomenal: this music seems to flow out of him with such relaxed and elegant perfection that one gladly accepts his interpretations. His account of Prelude No. 16 is convincing and his envoi with No. 24 is positively regal. 

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Michael Church