Nelson Goerner’s Chopin Nocturnes is an ‘outstanding new release’

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COMPOSERS: Chopin
LABELS: Alpha Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Chopin Evocations
WORKS: Nocturnes (complete)
PERFORMER: Nelson Goerner (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ALPHA 359

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From Claudio Arrau and Fou T’song to Ivan Moravec and Maria João Pires, the Chopin discography is rich in sets of the complete Nocturnes, any of which can stand as a ‘library choice’. But this outstanding new release from Nelson Goerner proves that there is always room for another. While listening to Goerner, no one could reasonably claim to be missing any of these greats, so complete is his grasp of Chopin’s style. Not just when positively relishing the central, B-section storms of the Nocturnes but in their most dreamy aspects too, Goerner reminds us that there is nothing sentimental about Chopin’s music. He focuses unerringly on musical content rather than pianistic effect.

 Right from the first bars of the first piece, Op. 9 No. 1, it is clear that each note has been thought about – and each note’s place in the bigger musical picture. In this respect, Goerner is close to the spirit of Arrau, a fellow South American as it happens. The legendary Chilean’s recording of the Nocturnes was the one memorably said to have helped rescue Chopin from the pianists, and here the Argentinian brings similarly wide musical insights. There are too many highlights to list, but the C minor Nocturne is a good example of how these performances tell a story, making you hang onto every note. There are great beauties, too, as at end of the F minor Nocturne, both dramatic and delicate where the music escapes into the major key. 

Goerner’s Chopin was special right from the start of his career, but it has matured into something remarkable now, and his approach even when playing a modern instrument has surely benefited from his work with the Chopin Institute in Warsaw, for whom he has recorded on period pianos. Little wonder, then, that Chopin’s soul seems to be revealed in these warmly recorded performances.

John Allison

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Listen to an excerpt from this recording here.