'Past three o'clock ...', and during a sweltering Cairo night, the Ramadan drum passes along the street by my flat to wake me to a breakfast before sunrise. In fact I'm usually already fed and at the computer; but I could swear that gradually the drummer is approximating to the rhythm of a slow Chopin waltz, out of sympathy for the only foreigner in his district. The young Chopin was twice in Vienna, the second time during the Warsaw uprising of November 1830. Amid his frustration and anger at Russian heavy-handedness, he absorbed also the characteristic Viennese dance music of the time, appropriating it to his own special brand of pianism.
A Viennese pupil of his, Friederike Müller-Streicher, described him at the keyboard: 'His playing was always noble and beautiful; his tones sang, whether in full forte or softest piano. He took infinite pains to teach his pupils this legato, cantabile style of playing.' I suspect that for the nineteen waltzes, many of them very suitably published in groups of three, Chopin might have exceeded Miss Igoshina's fifty-eight minutes. We are all but two centuries on from Chopin, and life's tempo has steadily increased, not always to music's advantage.
It is interesting that all but six of the waltzes have key signatures in flats. The well-known 'Minute' waltz has five, and I leave you to time it.
Listen -- Waltz in D flat Op 64 No 1
(track 2, 0:01-0:33) © 2007/2008 Lontano
The three portraits of Valentina Igoshina that come with the disc, one coyly seductive, another languidly appealing, the third serious and slightly disshevelled perhaps each have their part in the recording, and I have entertained myself by trying to assign each image to a characteristic waltz. Chopin's six-flat waltz Op 70 No 1 is fleet enough, but its difficulties are serious too.
Listen -- Waltz in G flat Op 70 No 1
(track 4, 1:18-1:59) © 2007/2008 Lontano
Miss Igoshina has divided the published waltzes so as to make a programme with logical key sequence. Her scheme breaks down only when we come to the so-called 'appendix' and posthumous waltzes. The first is a beautiful creation in E flat.
Listen -- Valtz 'Anhang' in E flat
(track 15, 0:01-0:34) © 2007/2008 Lontano
But then those with a sensitive ear have immediately to confront the 'devil in music', with a waltz in A minor, an augmented fourth away. Decorum is restored with the penultimate waltz in A flat.
Listen -- Waltz in A flat
(track 18, 0:01-0:23) © 2007/2008 Lontano
It is a lovely recital, just what is needed to repel any Ramadan blues, and a graceful Russian apology to the justly sensitive Chopin.
Copyright © 10 September 2008
Robert Anderson, Cairo, Egypt
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Valentina Igoshina - Chopin: Valses; Valses Opus Posthumes (Complete Waltzes)
2564 69566-5 DDD Stereo NEW RELEASE 58'15" 2007/2008 Lontano
Valentina Igoshina, piano
Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849):
Valse brillante in A flat Op 34 No 1
Valse in D flat Op 64 No 1
Valse in F minor Op 70 No 2
Valse in G flat Op 70 No 1
Valse in B minor Op 69 No 2
Valse in A flat Op 64 No 3
Grande Valse brillante in E flat Op 18
Valse in A flat Op 69 No 1
Valse brillante in F Op 34 No 3
Valse brillante in A minor Op 34 No 2
Valse in E minor
Valse in C sharp minor Op 64 No 2
Valse in D flat Op 70 No 3
Grande Valse in A flat Op 42
Valse 'Anhang' in E flat
Valse in A minor
Valse in E
Valse in A flat
Valse in E flat
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