ChopinRachmaninov

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COMPOSERS: ChopinRachmaninov
LABELS: DG
ALBUM TITLE: Helene Grimaud
WORKS: Piano Works
PERFORMER: Helene Grimaud
CATALOGUE NO: 477 5325
Although there are plenty of recordings

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of the second piano sonatas of both

these composers in the catalogue, it’s

surprising that until now no pianist

had the imaginative idea of coupling

them. Yet the connections between the two sonatas are obvious. Apart

from sharing a common central

tonality, both inhabit similarly

turbulent emotional worlds offering

in the process considerable challenges

for the interpreter especially in terms

of maintaining structural coherence.

For the most part, Hélène Grimaud

rises to these challenges admirably.

Like Argerich, she is a charismatic

performer, responding instinctively to

the ebb and flow of Chopin’s writing.

In this respect, although everything

seems perfectly controlled, there’s

also an almost spontaneous sense of

forward momentum which one would

normally experience in a live concert.

This works particularly well in the

first two movements of the Chopin,

while in the finale, Grimaud’s

judicious use of the pedal enhances

the feeling of suppressed desperation

that underlines the music.

The Rachmaninov is likely to be

more controversial on account of

Grimaud’s decision to create her own

performing version of the work based

on the composer’s truncated 1931

revision, but also incorporating quite

extensive passages from the original

1913 composition (Horowitz pursued

a similar path without encountering

any objections from Rachmaninov

himself). In any case the expansions

seem entirely plausible, serving in

fact to strengthen the logical flow

of the music. The performance and

recording, too, are highly persuasive,

though in the last resort I don’t

experience quite the same level of

high-octane adrenaline as in Simon

Trp?eski’s astonishing performance of

the 1931 version for EMI (see Disc of

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the Month review, p56). Erik Levi