Another example of superb programming, Piotr Anderszewski's Chopin recital on Virgin is brilliantly conceived and masterfully executed. Concentrating on the compoer's late works, Anderszewski's program starts with two sets of Mazurkas played with supple sensitivity and sympathetic poetry, builds through the last two Ballades played with dramatic intensity and terrific technique, climaxes in the last two Polonaises played with heroic grandeur and tremendous virtuosity, and closes with the tender and intimate Mazurka in F minor as an encore. Anderszewski's technique is imperious, his tone is sensual, his performances are emotional, and his interpretations are magisterial. Individually, each performance is strong and vital. Taken all together, the whole disc is more than the sum of its parts. Virgin's sound is warm but a bit close and sometimes a little too immediate.
Yundi, the Chinese dazzling pianist acclaimed by the Wall Street Journal for his - poetic depth and patrician elegance - continues his award-winning exploration of the works of Chopin with a new recording of the Ballades, and by embarking on a major international tour. If precedent is a guide, both are expected to cause massive excitement among his fans. For his new all-Chopin recording, Yundi performs the Opus 17 set of four Mazurkas, the Berceuse (Op 57), and all four Ballades. The latter works were composed between 1831 and 1842, and contain some of the composers most operatic writing, as well as his most challenging technical demands.
France's Naïve label has heavily promoted the career of the young pianist Lise de la Salle, who was 22 when this recording was made. Her fashion-spread good looks fit with Naïve's design concepts, and she has the ability to deliver the spontaneous, unorthodox performances the label favors. How does she fare in a field extremely crowded with Chopin recitals? Her performances certainly aren't derivative of anyone else, and this live recording from the Semperoper in Dresden (you get a one-minute track of just applause at the end) has a good deal of attention-getting flair. The standout feature of de la Salle's performance, in the four ballades at least, is her orientation toward slow tempos, inventively deployed.
The four Ballades for piano, composed between 1835 and 1842, have a particular status in Chopin's production. As opposed to the "small forms" inspired by dances, they give birth to vast developments of a new, almost revolutionary genre bearing an epic breadth characteristic of the emergence of the Romantic Age. Like his friend Delacroix, who knew how to express the spirit of his times to be heroic in his paintings, Chopin here develops the aesthetic line of the musical story, rich with multiple sparkling colors. The piano Arthur Schoonderwoerd plays is an exact contemporary of the pieces executed and was miraculously conserved in its original state.
The new recordings of Chopin's works on period instruments allow contemporary listeners to discover the historical models, bringing us closer to the original and to the long-forgotten sound of the Romantic era.