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I believe (and please note my use of the word 'believe') that Paderewski's version of the 'Cello' Etude, Op 25 No 7, is far closer to Chopin's method than any modern performance, including Lear's. On the other hand, the astounding recording by Francis Planté (born 1839) of the C sharp minor Etude, Op 10 No 4, with its gargantuan contrasts between loud and pounding effects and softer pearly scales, seems to me to be a direct link with the wildness of the High Romantic Age and not a sign of decrepit senility. I believe we can hear how Liszt himself approached the Etudes (and Liszt and Planté were well known to each other). Would that we had more proof to corroborate my belief. But then this might act as a guide to what Chopin did not want.

One interesting feature of Chopin performance that has not been recognized is the shift from rhythmically free to rhythmically organized that I think occurred around 1900. Prior to that, and in spite of Chopin's comment about the left hand keeping time as a conductor, I rather think the pulse of his compositions fluctuated widely. This can be heard in Rachmaninoff's version of the Nocturne Op 9 No 2, where no two beats are in equal time (as discovered by Mark Arnest in his careful analysis). However, a more rhythmically defined sense came into play at the turn of the century such that Busoni could come to believe that Chopin was 'waltzes, all waltzes'. Some modern musicians detest Chopin because his music is always in 3/4 time. But I think that Chopin's rhythmic flexibility was so great that his music never degenerated into mere mechanical dance rhythms.

If I may say there remain vast areas of research into Chopin interpretation. Angela Lear has contributed notably to the discussion (I hope she considers publishing an 'edition' of the Etudes herself) and she is to be highly congratulated for it.

Copyright © 14 February 2004 Gordon Rumson, Calgary, Canada


Angela Lear - Chopin Etudes Op 10 and Op 25

MNU 4121986 Stereo NEW RELEASE (2 CDs) 63'86" 2003 Libra Records Ltd

Angela Lear, piano

Fryderyc Chopin (1810-1849): 24 Etudes, Op 10 and Op 25; CD 2 contains and illustrated talk with excerpts and comparative examples on each étude




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