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Chopin Ballades, Mazurkas, Polonaises Review

Album. Released 2003.  

BBC Review

The recording is perfectly scaled, intimate without being oppressively close, and in...

Andrew McGregor 2003

I'll keep this brief, out of deference for a pianist who proves yet again that in so much of Chopin's music, less is more.

'Chopin, alongside Mozart, is the greatest' Anderszewski is reported to have declared at the end of the sessions for this CD, and you can see immediately where he's coming from. There's the almost naïve simplicity of the Op. 59 Mazurkas that begin this recital, the old-fashioned manner of addressing the keyboard, and the feeling that somehow no matter how impassioned matters become, the emotional outbursts can just about be contained, and constrained, by classical structures, as though you're catching glimpses of an approaching storm from within a Palladian colonnade.

Has it really taken this long for Anderszewski to embrace Chopin? I doubt it; perhaps it was just a public necessity not to appear to be cashing in on shared nationality at the expense of our appreciation of Anderszewski's pianism. But could we really mistake this for anything other than what it is, Chopin playing of the very highest quality? The first of the Op. 63 Mazurkas struts arrogantly before us, with Anderszewski's rhythmic pointing adding a lurching momentum to it...and straight afterwards, the air of hushed grief or suppressed tragedy in Op. 63 No. 2 is a powerful contrast, prompting playing of great delicacy and refinement.

The Ballades and Polonaises are pieces on a more epic scale, yet they share the same qualities in Anderszewski's hands: passion and explosive power held within a fragile web of harmonic and rhythmic certainty. Hidden within is some of the quietest, stillest Chopin you'll hear, which means Anderszewski doesn't have to pound the piano like a boxer on steroids to make a massive impact...and some of the most effective and beautiful moments are achieved through rubato, a momentary hesitation or a subtle lingering over a melodic phrase or cadence.

The recording is perfectly scaled, intimate without being oppressively close, and in sum it's one of those rare Chopin recitals that makes perfect sense, not because it has all the Mazurkas together (it hasn't), or the four Ballades one after another (it doesn't), but because Anderszewski's musicality makes organic sense of the whole recital. It lives and breathes just as movingly as a whole as it does within any one of the miniatures in isolation, and that is a very rare achievement.

Like This? Try These:
Chopin: Études (Murray Perahia)
Godowsky: Piano Sonata & Passacaglia (Hamelin)
Mikhail Pletnev: Live at Carnegie Hall

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