Chopin: Ballades; Piano Concerto No. 2

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COMPOSERS: Chopin
LABELS: NAIVE
WORKS: Ballades; Piano Concerto No. 2
PERFORMER: Lise de la Salle (piano); Staatskapelle Dresden/Fabio Luisi
CATALOGUE NO: V 5215

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Now 22, Lise de la Salle has enjoyed a busy international career since 2001, becoming a regular guest of numerous Grade A orchestras all over the world. Quite apart from her already illustrious past, she has a lot going for her: a technique of aristocratic refinement, great fluency, a wide and subtly applied colouristic palette, and a capacity to sustain phrases without ever tripping over the metre. 

The experience of music is notoriously subjective, and there may be very many listeners for whom the present release marks the arrival of a great Chopin player. For me, however, it’s a case of ‘not quite yet, but coming for sure’. From my perspective she has only to acquire simplicity.

The playing on the whole is strikingly impressive, full of emotional intensity and pianistic brilliance (subtlety too). Not so evident is the fact that Chopin was a stranger to exaggeration – a Classicist after his time, whose greatest role models were Mozart and Bach. His definition of rubato virtually duplicated Mozart’s: rhythmic liberties should be confined to the right hand, the left continuing to maintain a steady pulse.

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The tempos here are sometimes distractingly elastic, the rhythms occasionally distorted (left hand in the ‘storm’ of the Second Ballade No. 2, for instance), and Chopin’s meticulously deployed dynamic scheme is too often homogenised, producing an excess of moderation in some of the most passionate (in some cases violent) music ever written. Remove the element of mannerism and this would be playing of the highest standard. Jeremy Siepmann