Frédéric Chopin's music is closely associated with the piano and as a matter of fact most of his music is written for this instrument. French harpist Coline-Marie Orliac did not want to miss playing Chopin?s inspiring music and took the audacious task to transcribe it for harp. Among Chopin's signature works is her arrangement of the Ballade op. 23 No. 1, displaying to the listener her breathtaking virtuosity while always adding a fresh and more transparent sound to Chopin's music.
Almost four hours of music constitutes exceptional value especially when, tucked away among a selection of Mazurkas, is Chopin's early "Variations on a German National Air". Vásáry charms you into wondering why it is so rarely heard.
Russia is vast, and so is this 25-disc tribute to the great piano school of Russia-from the long-famous icons to the more recent inheritors of this ineffably proud tradition. Vladimir Horowitz, Sviatoslav Richter, Emil Gilels, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Lazar Berman and many others display their subtly various approaches to phrasing and timbre as they perform the great works of the Russian canon and composers across Europe.
For while it would be idle to pretend that this 70-year-old virtuoso, struck down at the height of his career with psoriatic arthritis, still commands the velocity and reflex of his earlier years, his later Chopin and Liszt are a tribute to a devotion and commitment gloriously enriched by experience. The First Impromptu is piquantly voiced and phrased while the C sharp minor Etude, Op. 25 No. 7, could hardly be more hauntingly confided, more ‘blue’ or inturned. How you miss the repeat in the C sharp minor Mazurka, Op. 50 No. 3 (not Op. 15, as the jewel-case claims), given such cloudy introspection and if there are moments when you recall how Rubinstein – forever Chopin’s most aristocratic spokesman – can convey a world of feeling in a scarcely perceptible gesture, Janis’s brooding intensity represents a wholly personal, only occasionally overbearing, alternative; an entirely different point of view. Time and again he tells us that there are higher goods than surface polish or slickness and in the valedictory F minor Mazurka, Op. 68 No. 4 he conveys a dark night of the soul indeed, an emotion almost too desolating for public utterance… Janis is no less remarkable in Liszt, whether in the brief but intriguing Sans mesure (a first performance and recording), in a Sonetto 104 del Petrarca as tear-laden as any on record and in a final Liebestod of an exhausting ardour and focus.
Tatiana Shebanova, who also features in the Fryderyk Chopin Institute’s on-going Real Chopin series (see review special, p83), gets her own complete, modern instrument (as opposed to Real Chopin’s historic instruments) cycle on the Polish label Dux. Arranged in opus order, it presents a satisfying survey of Chopin’s development, and it spares the listener from (for example) a lack of variety in the usual hour-long sequence of waltzes.
Vladimir Sofronitsky was among the greatest Russian pianists of the twentieth century, and, while he had become a somewhat less prominent figure following his death, he must be still considered in the company of Richter, Gilels, and Yudina. In his time, Sofronitsky became widely recognized as the leading interpreter of and authority on the music of Scriabin in Eastern Europe. He was also highly praised for his interpretations of the piano works of Robert Schumann and he was a highly respected teacher.
To mark the 50th anniversary of the pianist’s death, EMI has brought out the largest and most comprehensive Cortot collection ever. The set offers nearly every commercial studio recording released under Cortot’s name on 78 shellac, vinyl LP, 45 rpm single, or compact disc, including unpublished takes already released on CD. To be sure, it is not quite “The Complete Cortot”. For example, the collection omits Cortot’s 1903 sessions accompanying soprano Felia Litvinne, plus a 1925 recording containing the second half only of Chopin’s First Ballade coupled on shellac with the same composer’s Second Impromptu. There is no broadcast material, either. However, we do get Cortot’s unpublished 1957 Chopin Preludes and Ballades, along with a few samples from the pianist’s long-rumored, unfinished Beethoven cycle recorded at the Ecole Normale in 1958/59
The box set comprised 100 volumes featuring 72 pianists of the 20th century, each volume with two CDs and a booklet about the life and work of the featured pianist. The set contains a variety of composers from different eras, from Baroque to Contemporary classical.