Noble and Poetic
Sequeira Costa plays Chopin,
Some quite magnificent Chopin from the veteran Portuguese pianist -- sonorous and spacious in concept, noble and poetic in utterance. Note the Ballade No 1 in G minor's finely arched Lento introduction
[listen -- track 1, 0:00-1:00],
linked phrases reflecting the composer's vision of lament and sadness, the solemn pulse of the Moderato, unfolding tenuto, ritenuto, sempre più mosso, preparing us for the sotto voce second subject. A great understanding of controlled expression by the artist -- only Gilels, many years back at London's Royal Festival Hall brought the same fortissimo tensions as the theme slightly broadens for the A major outburst, but the Russian can't match Costa's clarity and wondrous left hand colourings. Nothing is rushed, with every rest marking observed, and this includes the final Presto con fuoco.
The second F minor Ballade, its innocent Berceuse-like Andantino culminating in a tumultuous outburst of ever building tensions, shows the performer's subtle alternations of right and left hand commentaries. The closing Agitato's shaded semiquavers allow accompanying quavers to assume a feeling of esprit de corps before the coda, and dedicatee Robert Schumann would have admired the mystery of this interpretation.
The third A flat Ballade impresses by its absolute control and superb pedalling, with some marvellous filigree touches, first heard in the semiquaver decorations in the third stave on the second page. There is no attempt to quicken when the music swirls into C minor territory. Chopin obviously had no such intentions, despite the crudities of some present day performers.
There is a strong sense of music plucked straight from the heavens above in the falling phrases that start the final Ballade in F minor
[listen -- track 4, 0:00-1:25].
I can imagine Mark Hamburg stressing the measure and involvement and how to deal with the complexities in the rhetoric -- the floating G-F minor link prior to the florid exposition repeat and the solemn dolce chordal interlude that suddenly projects into a massive development, part fugue, part variation writing. Costa ignores the pause marking prior to the pianissimo chords that usher in the extended coda. Instead, he connects the resonating note to the three pizzicati quavers preceding it. Some may also carp that there is insufficient accelerando at the close, but passions there are in plenty!
The performance of the B minor Sonata explores all the maturer aspects of Chopin's advanced style of composition. Like his illustrious predecesor Claudio Arrau, whose reading has obvious similarities, Costa plays the first movement repeat which adds architectural splendour to an interpretation so naturally paragraphed and beautifully crafted that I didn't wish its spell to end! The Scherzo focuses on Molto vivace display without indulging in virtuoso pyrotechnics, whilst the elegiac slow movement has a charm and delicacy completely unlike Van Cliburn's opera aria display.
[listen -- track 8, 4:18-5:35]
shows Costa at his most adventurous and versatile, displaying subtle phrase turns and changes of mood to a nicety: raising the main theme to a higher elevation when it is repeated in octaves, and the pregnant pauses and leading note accents at key changes. At all times he remains musical, removing the merest suggestion of departing from tempo primo. OK -- there is the usual slowing of the main theme's final statement -- more in the sense of an extended rubato than anything else in the link up to the bravura at the close. What holds the music superbly together is the left hand's rhythmic nuance balanced to a flowing, sonorous right.
The June 2004 recording was engineered and produced by Colin Attwell from Henry Wood Hall, London. The Kawai piano is Model No 2018001.
Copyright © 22 November 2006
Bill Newman, Edgware UK
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Sequeira Costa - Chopin
CR5467 Stereo FIRST RELEASE 68'39" 2005 Claudio Records Ltd
Sequeira Costa, piano (Kawai 2018001)
Fryderyk Chopin (1810-1849): Ballade No 1 in G minor Op 23; Ballade No 2 in F Op 38; Ballade No 3 in A flat Op 47; Ballade No 4 in F minor Op 52; Sonata No 3 in B minor Op 58 (Allegro maestoso; Scherzo: Molto vivace; Largo; Presto non tanto)
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