Frederic Chopin - Volume 1 - Louis Lortie

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FREDERIC CHOPIN - Nocturnes - Scherzos - Sonata in B flat minor - Louis Lortie (Piano) - Chandos 10588

An unexpected and pleasant surprise during the year marking the 200th anniversary of Frédéric Chopin's birth. The prodigious Canadian pianist Louis Lortie returns with a fabulous recording of music by Chopin on the Chandos label. The same two names that were part of his early recording days almost 25 years ago now. It was in 1986 that he recorded the complete Chopin Etudes for Chandos, a recording that the BBC Music Magazine lists as one of the 'Top 50 Piano Recordings', out of thousands of recordings on the market at the moment.

In this, the Volume 1 of a long series of recordings I hope, Lortie explains that the juxtaposition of works as varied as Nocturnes and Scherzos on the same CD makes the whole thing feel more like a piano recital, and allows the listener to fully enjoy the contents in one stretch. Personally, I find this choice of pairing opposites, works quite well as each one counterbalances the mood of the previous piece very well. And even though the Scherzos are turbulent and virtuosic affairs, they all contain a Nocturnish middle section of rare beauty.

From the very first notes of the opening Nocturne Op. 72 No. 1, it is obvious that Louis Lortie makes the piano (a Fazioli instrument in this recording) a much more malleable or pliable instrument than most pianists would have us believe. He shapes and moulds each and every note in relation to its role within each phrase, and shapes and moulds each phrase in relation to its role within the whole piece. Nothing is mundane or ordinary here. What Chopin has to say is of the utmost importance. Lortie's audacity in the Presto segments of the Scherzos and in the final blurry movement of the 'Funeral March' Sonata is simply astounding, and his limited use of the sustain pedal allows a transparency and clarity to always be present, even in the fastest flurries of notes. Quite simply a tremendous achievement with a recorded piano sound to match.

Jean-Yves Duperron