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The piano works of Frédéric Chopin stand in the middle of the two sections of the 'Bible' for the instrument: Bach's Preludes and Fugues and Beethoven's thirty-two Sonatas. Chopin's Preludes and Études are short works, and most of his compositions make up small, seemingly unconnected pieces, each of which shows a genius that captured the Parisian imagination almost two hundred years ago and still does today. The startling virtuosity, although often mixed with exterior simplicity, requires each phrase and piece to have its own life, and its own expressive value.
The French pianist Ali Hirèche has produced a meticulous recording that shows off his virtuosic playing at its best. Each of the pieces is delicately played, but with an ever-present vitality that is essential to their appreciation. Seen as revolutionary when first composed, the Études require skill to achieve a coherent, well-phrased sound that fully exposes both the sonorous harmonies and powerful melodies. The fourth piece from the first collection, Op 10, is emphatically played, the constant brillante theme creating a well-rounded sound.
Listen — Chopin: Presto in C sharp minor (Op 10)
(track 4, 0:00-0:39) © 2017 Bion Musique :
The unique individualism of all these pieces, short expressions that were, in truth, composed simply as studies, requires an interpretation that gives an overall mood to each piece, and does not disrupt the overall flow. Hirèche manages to give an impeccable portrait of Chopin, through a mixture of the multiple skills required to give an effervescent yet intimate feel to the music. The pieces were seen in their time as revolutionary, but les Etudes sont la somme de ces résistances - as French poet Camille Bourniquel is quoted as saying in the sleeve notes.
Listen — Chopin: Allegro molto con fuoco in C minor (Op 25)
(track 24, 1:58-2:55) © 2017 Bion Musique :
As with Mozart, Chopin recordings and concerts have to reach a certain standard to be released to the moulds of respectability. The energy that both composers require in their music often means that expression is ignored as a consequence. The Steinway Model D which was used for this recording, although the standard for all high quality records, added to the grandeur and brilliance of the playing, and all the energy and tenderness needed is displayed here. Chopin's short life and constant illness meant that the feeling of dark melancholy is often believed to act as a shadow over his music. Some of the first Études were written while the composer was still a teenager; there is emotion, certainly, but the technical virtuosity is what is on show, and the genius that has been masterfully represented here.
Copyright © 6 November 2019