Chopin: Piano Sonata No. 2; Piano Sonata No. 3; Variations Brillantes, Op. 12; Barcarolle in F sharp, Op. 60

COMPOSERS: Chopin
LABELS: Linn
ALBUM TITLE: Chopin
WORKS: Piano Sonata No. 2; Piano Sonata No. 3; Variations Brillantes, Op. 12; Barcarolle in F sharp, Op. 60
PERFORMER: Artur Pizarro (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CKD 250
For all his innate stylishness, Artur Pizarro drives Chopin very much from the back seat. In the opening track, the little-heard Variations brillantes Op. 12, the casual nonchalance of his phrasing and the sweetness of his lyricism suit the salon style of the music. But the two great piano sonatas and the Barcarolle demand greater dramatic urgency and a stronger interpretative personality.

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Pizarro is not helped by the rather woolly recorded sound, which makes it hard for his playing to make a visceral impact (although the sonic perspective works better on SACD), but more damaging is his own rhythmic slackness which often prevents the music from sustaining any narrative momentum. The effect is sometimes rather stop-start, as in the first movement of the Second Sonata, or the music just seems to sag, as in the first movement of the Third. Both suffer in comparison with the natural drive of Argerich. Worst affected is the Barcarolle, which in its homogenized dynamics and generalized character emerges as unduly bland; try the Più mosso section (track 6 from 7:21), where the pivotal sense of arrival and wound-up tension wholly elude Pizarro. Given such a lack of incisiveness it comes as something of a shock when Pizarro unleashes terrific fire and brilliance on the finale of the Third Sonata. It’s such a pity that he doesn’t sustain playing of this calibre throughout the disc.

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Tim Parry