Other than Rubinstein, there is no greater Chopin interpreter than Horowitz, and in his single greatest work – the second sonata which is the highlight of this disc – I find Horowitz preferable because Rubinstein takes the great funeral march of the third movement too slowly, whereas Horowitz' direct approach conveys an even deeper sense of melancholy and tragedy. That said, this is a superb sampling of Horowitz' art, even better than the first volume of this series, with unworldly playing and fine sound quality for an analogue recording. The second sonata is second to none, and the shorter pieces are all very familiar and superbly played.
…Pizarro's Linn recordings all reveal a rich and powerful piano sound with a tremendous dynamic range and an extreme treble end that strikes my ears as much more musical than the steely-hard timbre of the high notes often heard on recordings. Part of the explanation could be that Pizarro doesn't play the typical Steinway; these recordings feature the Bluthner piano, made in the former East Germany for a century and a half. The listener is acoustically seated very close to the piano, making the wide dynamic range enough to shake you up occasionally…
Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt has specialized in Baroque and Classical music, and her Beethoven is about as delicate as some might expect. But there's a difference between applying delicacy to works that are not conventionally played that way, and applying it to already delicate works. There are two of each here. Hewitt runs counter to type in the early Piano Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 2/2, and Piano Sonata No. 5 in C minor, Op. 10/1. In the Op. 10 work, perhaps a preparatory essay for the tumultuous "Pathétique" sonata that followed in the same key, Hewitt will be underpowered for many. But all is redeemed in the gentler pair, the Piano Sonata No. 24 in F sharp major, Op. 78, and Piano Sonata No. 31 in A major, Op. 110. Hewitt takes moderate tempi in these, infusing a sense of spontaneity into the brief, tightly constructed Op. 78 and opening up the fugal counterpoint in the Op. 110 finale. Hewitt's Bachian training really applies in this work, whose first movement is also particularly raptly, almost mystically done. It's hard to offer a general judgment on this set, but for those buying online, in pieces, know that the last two selections are must-haves.
This was Kyung-Wha Chung's first recording, made when she was 22, just after her sensational London debut in the Tchaikovsky Concerto with the same orchestra and conductor. It is splendid. Only a young, radiantly talented player could make these two tired warhorses sound so fresh and vital; only a consummately masterful one could sail through their daunting technical difficulties with such easy virtuosity and perfection. Her tone is flawlessly beautiful, varied in color and inflection; she puts her technical resources entirely at the service of the music, giving every note meaning and honestly felt expression without exaggeration or sentimentality. The Tchaikovsky has charm, humor, sparkle; the slow movement is dreamy, wistful, and unmuted but subdued and inward. The Sibelius is dark and bleak but full-blooded, passionate, and intense. The orchestra sounds and plays better in the Sibelius.
One of the greatest cellists of the twentieth century, a performer who combined technical brilliance with soulful expressiveness, Danil Shafran was born in 1923, in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). Shafran's first teacher was his father, who was the principal cellist of the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra.