Chopin: Andante Spianato & Grande Polonaise, Op. 22; Sonata No. 2, Op. 35 (Funeral); Nocturnes Opp. 15, 27 & posthume; Mazurkas Nos 3 & 4, Op. 30; Barcarolle, Op. 60

COMPOSERS: Chopin
LABELS: Accord
ALBUM TITLE: Chopin
WORKS: Andante Spianato & Grande Polonaise, Op. 22; Sonata No. 2, Op. 35 (Funeral); Nocturnes Opp. 15, 27 & posthume; Mazurkas Nos 3 & 4, Op. 30; Barcarolle, Op. 60
PERFORMER: Roger Muraro (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 442 8886
The distinguished French pianist Roger Muraro has programmed an interesting selection of Chopin’s darkest and most luminous works for his new CD. It’s a clever concept for a Chopin recital in an overcrowded market, but the results aren’t always as satisfying as one might hope.

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Muraro’s vision is intensely personal and anything but precious: there’s plenty of fire, matched by fine control of tone and shaping of phrases, though the whole is sprinkled with idiosyncrasies that won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Decorative arabesques are often beautifully felt, but he can seem reluctant to allow enough give and take in the poetic moments that most deserve such attention – notably in the Barcarolle – although not reluctant to slow the pace at certain moments that make less sense in the Grande Polonaise. More unsettling is the prevalence of sharp, stabbing effects in non-legato episodes; whether for contrast, point-making or interest for interest’s sake, it’s impossible to say.

The Sonata is delivered with considerable power and conviction, but compared to Martha Argerich, Muraro doesn’t quite leave the ground in terms of a fully rounded artistic concept. The second movement soldiers on without fully clocking in to the trio’s illusions of tranquillity; the dramatic paces of the first movement and the march are well-modulated, but intriguingly Muraro seems most at home in the ghostly, futuristic unisons of the final movement. Perhaps the basic contrast is that this interpretation feels guided, and sometimes misguided, by the head, while Argerich balances her hefty emotional power with unerring and apparently instinctive inner logic. The sound is excellent, flattering the piano’s resonance without looming too close.

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Jessica Duchen