Chopin News, Reviews, and Previews:

Another Round of Nielsen and a Hunt Lieberson Encore

New York Times – United States

A roundup of reviews by Times music critics includes a glowing account of pianist Alexander Tharaud‘s unique and dynamic reading of the 28 Preludes by Chopin: ‘At times Mr. Tharaud treats the Preludes as a Chopinesque “Pictures at an Exhibition.”’  

CHOPIN’S Preludes are not typically thought of as forceful, insistent and assertive these days, and if you are put off by the notion of a performance that grabs you by the lapels and won’t let you go until it has had its say, then Alexandre Tharaud’s recording is not for you.

Mr. Tharaud’s performance argues that only a live-wire interpretation, with hard-struck chords and tactile textures, reaches the music’s core. He is remarkably persuasive, even if you feel he has gone too far when he describes the Preludes, in a booklet interview, as “shot through with violence and death.” His view is not far from that of Schumann, who called the Opus 28 Preludes “eagles’ pinions, wild and motley pell-mell,” that contain “much that is sick, feverish, repellent.”

Still, Mr. Tharaud is clearly not out to recreate a 19th-century Chopin style. He is too inventive and idiosyncratic a performer for that. Some of the faster works — the short G major Prelude, for example — are played at a daunting clip but with jackhammer clarity. Even the slow, regal pieces have stormy, portentous undercurrents.

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Martha Argerich: The Stuff of Legend

New York Times – United States

Provocative contrarian view of Martha Argerich DVD (discussed in an earlier posting)  that cites the loss of a legendary Chopin interpreter as having a profound impact on Argerich’s career..pointed out  in a letter to the New York Times editor…

The best example of this is the assumption that the beloved and super-talented Martha Argerich (whom I met in Brussels 44 years ago, a year before she won the Chopin Competition in Warsaw) could ever be classified as shy.

I remember Ms. Argerich as quite aggressive, absolutely fearless and eager to be on the stage. Quite a logical attitude for a pianist with extraordinary technical equipment. If Ms. Argerich refuses to play recitals, her memory and still outstanding dexterity aren’t the reasons. It is the lack of an interpretative guru, like the Polish pianist Stefan Askenase (who died in 1985), a powerful force in remolding her while in her mid-20s.

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Close-up: Gabriela Montero

Independent – London,England,UK

Speaking of Martha Argerich…her name pops up again in this dispatch about South American pianist Gabriela Montero, making her debut at the Edinburgh Festival:

She’s been playing piano since before she could talk and made her debut with the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra aged eight. She can play “La Cucuracha” in the style of a Chopin Polonaise, Beethoven’s Fifth as a Piazzolla tango. But it wasn’t until a late-night conversation with the Argentine pianist Martha Argerich in 2001 that Gabriela Montero felt she could improvise on stage “without feeling I was doing something wrong”.

At 18, Montero considered a career in psychology before taking a place at the Royal Academy of Music, London. When she met Argerich, she had all but given up again, despite winning the Bronze Medal in the 1995 Chopin Competition.

Now 38 and based in Massachusetts, the Venezuelan is at last “very much at peace”. With a series of EMI discs, and an international concert schedule, she is on a roll, playing programmes in which one half is core classical and the other improvised. “The first half I get into who Chopin was, who Schumann was,” she says,”while the second half is really my world. I have no plan, no road-map.”

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