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Frédéric François Chopin (1810-49)

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Chopin & Alkan - Cello Sonatas

Chopin & Alkan - Cello Sonatas


Alkan:

Cello Sonata, Op. 47

Chopin:

Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 65


Alban Gerhardt (cello) & Steven Osborne (piano)

This recording of two great Romantic cello sonatas features the mercurial duo of cellist Alban Gerhardt and pianist Steven Osborne, both musicians of dazzling technical and interpretative abilities. Gerhardt is known for his passionate commitment to lesser-known nineteenth-century repertoire through his coruscating performances in Hyperion’s Romantic Cello Concerto series, and in this chamber disc he reaches an even higher level of thrilling intensity.

There are relatively few nineteenth-century cello sonatas. Even fewer have managed steadfastly to maintain a place in the current concert repertoire. Alkan’s splendid Sonata is a little-known work, but an immediately attractive one: ambitious, original, and replete with good tunes. Chopin’s Op 65 Sonata is a dense, complex work which baffled his contemporaries: it is revealed in this performance as a sophisticated example of two-part counterpoint, in which neither player consistently holds the centre-stage, and in which the interchange of voices is ever unpredictable.

Both works were written for the great French cellist Auguste-Joseph Franchomme who gave their premieres, with the composer at the piano in each case, in 1848 and 1857 respectively.

“Both performances from this outstanding partnership are out of the top drawer, fresh, spontaneous and beautifully recorded.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2008

“Alkan's Sonata has been recorded several times before, yet it has remained obstinately in the wings of the cello repertoire. This new version must surely drag it centre-stage. It is a masterpiece: meaty, melodic and, as with most of Alkan's music, extremely demanding to play – Mendelssohn with balls. The Allegretto second movement with its sly, pungent harmonies and the mystical, almost impressionistic slow movement especially are further proof, if it were needed, of Alkan's genius.
Chopin's Cello Sonata, his final major work and the last published in his lifetime, has never lacked champions, despite the notorious problems of balance in the first movement. Here the musical line is focused and unambiguous, though the da capo repeat turns what is by far the longest movement (usually about 10 minutes) into one approaching 15, making it quite disproportionate to the scale of the other three.
However, it offers the chance to hear twice the heart-catching little motif at 2 mins 42 secs which has rarely been played so affectingly. Both performances from this outstanding partnership are out of the top drawer, fresh, spontaneous and beautifully recorded.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“The Chopin sonata is everything that Alkan's isn't: dark, searching and puzzling; Alkan, on the other hand, produced an immediately accessible though technically demanding piece...Alban Gerhardt and Steven Osborne rise to the challenge with ease, giving us a real sense of Alkan's character while dispatching the more familiar Chopin with aplomb.” The Guardian, 12th October 2008

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Chopin: Ballades & Piano Sonata No. 3

Chopin: Ballades & Piano Sonata No. 3


Chopin:

Ballades Nos. 1-4

Piano Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Op. 58


“Edge-of-the-seat emotional timing and poetic sensitivity give the Ballades a freshness unheard on disc since Ashkenazy's mid-1960s Decca classic. The B minor Sonata is at a lower emotional temperature.” BBC Music Magazine, June 2005 ****

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Chopin - Chamber Music

Chopin - Chamber Music


Chopin:

Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 65

Carter Brey (cello)

Introduction and Polonaise Brillante in C, Op. 3

Carter Brey (cello)

Grand Duo in E KKIIb/1

Carter Brey (cello)

Piano Trio in G minor Op. 8

Leila Josefowicz (violin) & Carter Brey (cello)


While there is no composition by Chopin that does not involve the piano, the cello is the only other instrument for which he wrote any significant music. His first effort was a polonaise written in 1829 when he was visiting the home of Prince Radziwill, governor of the Principality of Poznan and himself a composer and cellist of sorts. Writing to his friend Tytus Woyciechowski in November, he is rather dismissive of his ‘alla polacca’ describing it as ‘nothing more than a brilliant drawing-room piece suitable for the ladies’. He hoped that the Prince’s daughter, Wanda, would practise the piano part (he was supposed to be giving her lessons) in which case she must have been an accomplished pianist, though her father would not have found the cello part over-taxing. The following year Chopin added an introduction, inspired by his friendship in Vienna with the cellist Joseph Merk. The Introduction and Polonaise brillante in C major for piano and cello Op 3 was dedicated to Merk. Carl Czerny (1791–1857) produced a piano solo version of the work but in the 1980s an arrangement by Chopin himself was unearthed.

The Piano Trio in G minor Op 8 was composed a year earlier, in 1828, for private performance at ‘Antonin’, the home of Prince Radziwill. This is Chopin’s only example of writing for the violin, and it shows a surprising lack of flair (in the first movement, for instance, the violinist rarely moves out of first position). It is a genial work in four movements (Allegro con fuoco, Scherzo, Adagio sostenuto and an Allegretto finale) but there is little of the interplay between the three instruments of the kind that makes the trios of Beethoven, Schubert and Hummel such a delight. Chopin seems hampered by the confines of classical procedures, working ideas through dutifully rather than with individuality and imagination, though various commentators have praised the Trio as ‘one of the most perfect and, unfortunately, most neglected of Chopin’s works’ (Charles Willeby) and wondered why ‘so graceful and winning a piece is not more of a staple in the concert hall’ (Emanuel Ax).

In the chronology of works for cello and piano, the Grand Duo in E major on themes from Meyerbeer’s Robert le Diable comes next. The opera had a sensational premiere in Paris on 21 November 1831. Set in thirteenth-century Sicily, the libretto, ‘in which the grotesque is carried to the point of absurdity’ (Kobbé), was saved by Meyerbeer’s brilliant score, and the work made a fortune for the Paris Opéra. Its themes attracted dozens of composers including Thalberg, Kalkbrenner, Herz and Liszt. Chopin was commissioned by his publisher Schlesinger to write this potpourri, a brilliant display piece of the kind that was so popular in the Parisian salons of the time. After the piano’s Largo introduction, among the themes used are the Romanza and the chorus ‘Non pietà’ from Act 1, and ‘Le mie cure ancor dei cielo’ (Act 5). Composed in 1831, it is one of only four Chopin works published in his lifetime without an opus number and the only one to be composed in collaboration, in this case with his friend the cellist August Franchomme.

‘I write a little and cross out a lot’, Chopin wrote to his sister during the composition of his final major work, the Cello Sonata in G minor Op 65, written in Paris in 1845 and 1846. ‘Sometimes I am pleased with it, sometimes not. I throw it into a corner and then pick it up again.’ No work of his gave him more trouble, as manifested by the extensive sketches. It was the last one to be published during his lifetime, written when his health was failing. The four movements (Allegro moderato, Scherzo, Largo and Allegro) show how far Chopin had developed in his ability to form a closely integrated sonata structure, with ideas developing from a variety of short but related motifs.

For some of Chopin’s contemporaries it was a difficult work to grasp. Moscheles found ‘passages which sound to me like someone preluding on the piano, the player knocking at the door of every key and clef, to find if any melodious sounds were at home’, yet he thought well enough of it to make an arrangement for piano four hands. The Allegro moderato, especially, puzzled even Chopin’s intimates—players today find it the most problematic in terms of balance—and he omitted the movement at the premiere given by himself and Franchomme, the work’s dedicatee, on 16 February 1848. This first movement clearly had some hidden significance for him. Various commentators have noted in it thematic references from Schubert’s Winterreise, notably the initial phrase of ‘Gute Nacht’, the opening song. The subject of the song-cycle, the disappointed lover in despair at leaving his beloved, would seem to reflect the circumstances of Chopin’s life when he was writing the Sonata. There is evidence that he turned to Winterreise at the time of his separation from George Sand. Could that be why the first movement was not played at the premiere? Is that why on his deathbed he asked Franchomme to play it but could not bear to hear more than the opening bars?

“…Ohlsson proves himself a sensitive chamber musician, joining forces with violinist Leila Josefowicz and cellist Carter Brey in an extremely convincing performance of the much underrated Piano Trio.” BBC Music Magazine, February 2010 ****

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Chopin - Four Ballades & Four Scherzos

Chopin - Four Ballades & Four Scherzos


Chopin:

Ballades Nos. 1-4

Scherzi Nos. 1-4


“In the use of words like sensational, extraordinary, phenomenal, etc., critics have to be sparing, at risk of their credibility. But these adjectives are all appropriate to this new Chopin recital by Stephen Hough, which vaults him to the top rung in this repertoire, right next to Rubinstein” American Record Guide

“This is astonishing piano playing; Chopin interpretation that, at its best, fully measuring up to the greatness of these pieces. Stephen Hough's accounts offer plenty of refreshment to spirit and senses.
The distribution is interesting, chronological but alternating one of each, which may not make a recital to consume at one go, but helps to point up their diversity and individual character, as well as Chopin's mastery of large forms. Hough is unfailingly thoughtful; there isn't a note that hasn't been cared for. Just a few of them (Third Ballade, for example) are picked out of the texture and strung together for our delectation in a way that might strike you as otiose if you're in a sober-sides kind of mood. The surfaces of his presentations are very 'worked', more indicative of application, maybe, than of organic growth. But this isn't superficial playing – the performances catch fire.
He inclines to the accepted view that Chopin's large forms have a 'plot' that culminates in a tumult or a whirlwind of activity. The tempest in the coda of the Fourth Ballade might have been a mite less furious, to let the ear have more time to register what's going on. The closing pages of No 1, on the other hand, have an exemplary finish and allure. Most distinguished of the Ballades is No 2, where Hough perceives the invasion of one kind of music by another in all its subtlety and lays out a spellbinding sevenminute drama.
He has interesting points to make in the Scherzos, too. Where many a player is content to let recurring sections and paragraphs register simply as the music we heard before, with him they sound different in some degree, affected by what's come in between. Hough is always doing something, though sometimes you might wish he were doing less. This is an issue out of the ordinary; welcome, too, for being handsomely recorded and produced.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

GGramophone Magazine

Disc of the Month - May 2004

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Chopin - Late Masterpieces

Chopin - Late Masterpieces


Chopin:

Barcarolle in F sharp major, Op. 60

Mazurka No. 40 in F minor, Op. 63 No. 2

Mazurka No. 45 in A minor, Op. 67 No. 4

Mazurka No. 41 in C sharp minor, Op. 63 No. 3

Mazurka No. 49 in F minor, Op. 68 No. 4

Polonaise No. 7 in A flat major, Op. 61 'Polonaise-fantaisie'

Nocturne No. 17 in B major, Op. 62 No. 1

Nocturne No. 18 in E major, Op. 62 No. 2

Piano Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Op. 58

Berceuse in D flat major, Op. 57


Stephen Hough joins the celebrations for Chopin’s 200th birthday with a disc containing much of the composer’s most extraordinary music, written in the last years of his life where the expressive possibilites of his art were constantly unfolding as he imbued his favoured forms with previously unknown levels of complexity and emotional depth. This disc includes the intoxicatingly ornamented Berceuse Op 57 and the sublime Barcarolle in F sharp major as well as the Polonaise-Fantasy in A flat major and the towering Piano Sonata No 3 in B minor. Also included are two late Nocturnes which demonstrate how Chopin’s art had evolved since he first composed in that genre in his youth. The programme is completed by a selection of Mazurkas, each a tiny jewel, containing no less mastery than their larger counterparts, and providing moving sonic evidence of the contemplative profundity of Chopin’s late style.

Stephen Hough’s extraordinarily sensitive playing is informed by his limitless technique and engaging musical imagination. This is the Chopin of a true Romantic.

“A new Hough disc is one of life's pleasures…A masterclass in pianistic command and stylistic poise with the most heartfelt playing of any of his recent recordings. There are few who can elucidate the question-and-answer phrasing of Chopin's music with Hough's transparency and unaffected simplicity.” Gramophone Magazine, May 2010

“...in every case Hough's command of the music's expressive world is totally convincing...Hough's distinctive voicing of each strand in the musical texture [of Op. 61] is mesmerising. His playing is directly communicative, seductively decorative and, in the sonata, aristocratically controlled.” The Guardian, 15th April 2010 *****

“I was won over by the lovely tone and touch, the seductive warmth and clarity of the inner parts and the beautifully judged rubato. This is unusually forceful Chopin playing — the sonata is like Chopin played by Liszt — but it carries ringing conviction.” Sunday Times, 18th April 2010 ****

“Hough’s fingers probe and caress; textures and colours dance and blend with cleansing clarity. Probably the Sonata’s best feature is Hough’s firm grasp of architecture.” The Times, 17th April 2010 ****

“Hough stresses the Classical outlook of Chopin's Romanticism, even in a programme encompassing some of his most harmonically advanced music. The opening Barcarolle has rare clarity, and the Berceuse rounds things off clearly.” BBC Music Magazine, June 2010 ****

Presto Disc of the Week

26th April 2010

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Chopin: Mazurkas

Chopin: Mazurkas


Chopin:

Mazurka No. 31 in A flat major, Op. 50 No. 2

Mazurka No. 34 in C major, Op. 56 No. 2

Mazurka No. 11 in E minor, Op. 17 No. 2

Mazurka No. 12 in A flat major, Op.17 No.3

Mazurka No. 38 in F sharp minor, Op. 59 No. 3

Mazurka No. 33 in B major, Op. 56 No. 1

Mazurka No. 47 in A minor, Op. 68 No. 2

Mazurka No. 14 in G minor, Op. 24 No. 1

Mazurka No. 13 in A minor, Op. 17 No. 4

Mazurka No. 17 in B flat minor, Op. 24 No. 4

Mazurka No. 56 in B flat major, K.IIa/3

Mazurka No. 10 in B flat major, Op. 17 No. 1

Mazurka No. 24 in C major, Op. 33 No. 3

Mazurka No. 16 in A flat major, Op. 24 No. 3

Mazurka No. 26 in C sharp minor, Op. 41 No. 1

Mazurka No. 19 in B minor, Op. 30 No. 2

Mazurka No. 32 in C sharp minor, Op. 50 No. 3

Mazurka No. 15 in C major, Op. 24 No. 2

Mazurka in A minor KKIIb/5

Mazurka No. 1 in F sharp minor, Op. 6 No. 1

Mazurka in A minor KKIIb/4

Mazurka No. 30 in G major, Op. 50 No. 1

Mazurka No. 35 in C minor, Op. 56 No. 3

Mazurka No. 37 in A flat major, Op. 59 No. 2


Pavel Kolesnikov (piano)

There are in all fifty-eight mazurkas by Chopin. Pavel Kolesnikov, making a welcome second recording for Hyperion, here performs a selection of twenty-four, from the earliest examples dating from his teenage years, through to the rich maturity of Op 59 No 2 from 1845.

“His unfolding of the lovely G minor Op 24, No 1, with its gentle, sighing motifs , is pliantly phrased and delicately shaped, but there is no lack of temperament in his virtuoso dispatch of the big pieces that conclude each set.” Sunday Times, 18th September 2016

“This must be one of the most appealing Chopin discs I’ve ever come across.” MusicWeb International, October 2016

“An ideal realisation of these exquisite dances, the likes of which I never dreamt of hearing…Liszt said it: ‘A wind plays in the leaves, life unfolds and develops beneath them, but the tree remains the same – that is the Chopin rubato.’ Kolesnikov does it…these performances are the most beautiful and strikingly original I’ve heard.” Gramophone Magazine, Awards Issue 2016

“The 26-year-old's latest Hyperion release is arguably the best Chopin recording I have encountered in recent years…from start to finish Kolesnikov doesn’t lose sight of the fact these are dances in miniature and his phrasing of each is entirely apposite. Chopin’s inventiveness is made the inescapable feature of this recording” Classical Ear, 1st November 2016 *****

GGramophone Awards 2017

Shortlisted - Instrumental

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Chopin: Nocturnes

Chopin: Nocturnes


Chopin:

Nocturne No. 19 in E minor, Op. 72 No. 1

Nocturne No. 20 in C sharp minor, Op. post.

Nocturne No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 9 No. 1

Nocturne No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 9 No. 2

Nocturne No. 3 in B major, Op. 9 No. 3

Nocturne No. 4 in F major, Op. 15 No. 1

Nocturne No. 5 in F sharp major, Op. 15 No. 2

Nocturne No. 6 in G minor, Op. 15 No. 3

Nocturne No. 7 in C sharp minor, Op. 27 No. 1

Nocturne No. 8 in D flat major, Op. 27 No. 2

Nocturne No. 9 in B major, Op. 32 No. 1

Nocturne No. 10 in A flat major, Op. 32 No. 2

Nocturne in C minor Op. post

Nocturne No. 11 in G minor, Op. 37 No. 1

Nocturne No. 12 in G major, Op. 37 No. 2

Nocturne No. 13 in C minor, Op. 48 No. 1

Nocturne No. 14 in F sharp minor, Op. 48 No. 2

Nocturne No. 15 in F minor, Op. 55 No. 1

Nocturne No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 9 No. 2

Nocturne No. 17 in B major, Op. 62 No. 1

Nocturne No. 18 in E major, Op. 62 No. 2


Livia Rév (piano)

“A very welcome reissue indeed. Eloquent, unfailingly beautiful in tone and blessedly free of mannerism, Livia Rev combines in almost perfect balance the simplicity of utterance required of all great Chopin playing” BBC Music Magazine

Building a Library

First Choice - April 2002

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Chopin - Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2

Chopin - Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2


Chopin:

Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Op. 11

Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21


'In a class of their own. This is great Chopin playing' (CDReview)

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Chopin - Piano Sonatas Nos. 2 & 3

Chopin - Piano Sonatas Nos. 2 & 3


Chopin:

Berceuse in D flat major, Op. 57

Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 35 'Marche funèbre'

Nocturne No. 7 in C sharp minor, Op. 27 No. 1

Nocturne No. 8 in D flat major, Op. 27 No. 2

Barcarolle in F sharp major, Op. 60

Piano Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Op. 58


Read Presto's complete review of this disc here.

Recent discs from Marc-André Hamelin have concentrated on music which is obscure, under-recorded or virtually unplayable. However in this latest recording he turns his attention to two mainstays of the Romantic repertoire: Chopin’s Piano Sonatas Nos 2 and 3. The results are simply staggering: playing of matchless brilliance and consummate artistry, stunningly recorded. As a recent critic of Hamelin’s live performance of the B minor sonata remarked, ‘Hamelin starts where most other pianists leave off … such was his control that frequently it seemed as though an extra dimension were being added, the music’s teeming internal life clarified by his ability to voice the inner parts’.

The disc is completed by some of Chopin’s greatest single-movement works; the contrasting two Nocturnes of Op 27, the extraordinarily colouristic Berceuse Op 57 and the monumental Barcarolle in F sharp major. We think this is one of the most authoritative and important Chopin discs to have appeared in recent years—an unmissable release.

“Hamelin builds the Second Sonata… unerringly, producing a poetic and passionate performance that is finally carried off on a spectral wind. Hamelin… opens with an exquisitely textured Berceuse. He finds all the richness of the Barcarollem and responds fully to Chopin's melodic impulse in the two Op. 27 Nocturnes. ...hugely satisfying Chopin recital.” BBC Music Magazine, January 2009 *****

“Hamelin's playing is refreshingly free from the "inverted comma" school of profundity, and he lets the music speak through him most eloquently. …though Hamelin has made many fabulous discs, particularly in reportoire of superhuman virtuosity, this is one of his very finest achievements to date.” Gramophone Magazine, February 2009

“This is a disc that takes you by stealth. Not simply because it opens almost unassumingly, with a finely wrought Berceuse, but because it was only after several listenings that one realises just how good it is. This is Hamelin's second recording of the Second Sonata and it shows how much Hamelin's pianism has developed during the intervening time.
Hamelin's playing is refreshingly free from the 'inverted comma' school of profundity, and he lets the music speak through him most eloquently; he doesn't get carried away with the subtext of the Second's Funeral March, keeping it flowing (with desynchronisation of the hands subtly done) and all the more effective as a result. In the slow movement of the Third he finds time to dream without ever becoming portentous, and is every bit the equal of Nelson Freire, whose Chopin sonatas have rightly won considerable praise. Predictably, Hamelin is wonderful in such things as the Scherzo of the Third and the visceral finale of the Second, though perhaps slower than you might expect in the neurotic Scherzo of No 2. In the finale of the Third he doesn't begin the build-up too soon, as can be a temptation, and even has a skip in his step.
The addition of two Nocturnes and the sublime Barcarolle simply confirm that though Hamelin has made many fabulous discs, particularly in repertoire of superhuman virtuosity, this is one of his very finest achievements to date.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“Listen to the last movement: this is indeed a fine example of supreme technical skill at the service of musical poetry.” Classic FM Magazine, February 2009 *****

“Because he seems to start from a position of being able to play all the notes without any apparent difficulty, he is able to concentrate on aspects of the music that you rarely get to hear elsewhere. Chopin often hides melodies in the inner parts and while for most pianists it is hard enough to make them heard at all, Hamelin is also able to give them shape and a real sensitivity.” Chris O'Reilly, Presto Classical, 12th January 2009

Presto Disc of the Week

12th January 2009

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - February 2009

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Chopin: Piano Sonatas Nos. 2 & 3

Chopin: Piano Sonatas Nos. 2 & 3


Chopin:

Berceuse in D flat major, Op. 57

Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 35 'Marche funèbre'

Nocturne No. 7 in C sharp minor, Op. 27 No. 1

Nocturne No. 8 in D flat major, Op. 27 No. 2

Barcarolle in F sharp major, Op. 60

Piano Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Op. 58


“Hyperion’s new release adds up to a hugely satisfying Chopin recital” BBC Music Magazine

“This is Chopin playing of a superior kind” Classic FM Magazine

“Though Hamelin has made many fabulous discs, particularly in repertoire of superhuman virtuosity, this is one of his very finest achievements to date” Gramophone Magazine

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