Chopin: Nocturnes, complete. (CD review)

Maurizio Pollini, piano. DG 00289 477 5718 (two-disc set).

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

Ever since Maurizio Pollini won the Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw in 1960, he has been the world's leading exponent of the composer's music, matched perhaps only by Arthur Rubinstein before him. For example, no one in the last forty-odd years has surpassed Pollini's recording of the Chopin First Piano Concerto on EMI. I can't imagine this DG recording of the complete Nocturnes being surpassed any time soon, either.

The set includes all nineteen of Chopin's little "night pieces," each of them played with consummate musicianship, quiet melancholy, overt drama, unabashed sentiment, and dazzling virtuosity. Never does any single piece sound less than spectacular, making us listen anew to music we thought we had heard enough times that it would never impress us again. And by presenting the various Nocturnes in chronological order, one hears fascinating comparisons and contrasts as the composer matures over the years.

If I have one concern, it's minor: Each of the discs in the set contains only a little over forty minutes, which seems short measure for a two-disc set. Other such sets fill out the balance of the free time with additional Chopin compositions. But this is, as I say, a minor concern. With music this good and playing this superb, who can complain? Surely, one cannot grouse about the sound. DG has always recorded piano music well, and this is no exception, the piano sounding neither too close nor too distant, too big nor too small. The sonics are clear and clean, with a touch of warm ambient glow to make it more realistic. I loved every moment of this set.

JJP

1 comment:

  1. I loved this set too, i also noticed the short measure of the discs, logically it would have been wise to add the two extra nocturnes to the disc, as there are really 21, Pollini brings revelations aplenty, my other favourite recommendation is by Barenboim, and i too reviewed the Pollini set on my Blog in January. http://octoruss.blogspot.com/2011/01/chopin-19-nocturnes-pollini-it-seems.html

    ReplyDelete

John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

I've been listening to classical music most of my life, starting with the classical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first classical recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor. Today, I'm retired from teaching and using a pair of VMPS RM40s. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (moviemet.com, formerly DVDTOWN) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

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