International Piano

Wed 19 Mar 2008

CD Chopin: Etudes opp. 10&25 e Ballades n. 1-4

In essence, these are among the finest of all Chopin discs, easily excelling recordings by almost all the most celebrated names in the catalogue. Both are ideally recorded and presented and I can scarcely wait for the next instalment.With these two discs Pietro de Maria commences a complete Chopin cycle for Italian Decca and a more enthralling launch would be hard to imagine.

Time and again this young prize-winning former student of Maria Tipo offers living proof that even the most familiar pages can re-emerge into the light as if newly minted-heard, as it were, in all heir first glory.

Crossing the Rubicon from prose or pragmatism to poetry in he Etudes remains a daunting challenge, yet it is met with unfailing musical ease and unfaltering command.

De Maria’s aristocratic sensibility allows the elegy of op.10 no.6 to emerge with suc naturalness and lack of affectation that it becomes doubly moving, while his total command in no.4 owes everything to musical distinction and nothing to obvious display.

The contours of op.25 no.1 could hardly be more delicately shaded and nuanced and in no.2 he achieves a whispering leggiero magic that made me recall Schumann’s words, ‘charming drowsy and soft as the song of a child singing in its sleep’.

How often have you heard the central melody and accompanying cascades in no.5 played with such an enviable but unobtrusive command?

De Maria’s way with the Ballades on the other hand, could hardly be more boldly confrontational or alive with vivid storytelling. The codas of all four (for Claudio Arrau among the most demanding pages in all piano literature) are thrown of with the rarest blend of drama and precision and never for a moment is thee even a hint of smooth or conventional vasion, of musical small talk.

For De Maria Chopin is every inch a man of fire and ice beneath his outwardly frail and dandified surface. In the relatively lightweight but ever-enchanting Impromptus he achieves a no-less stylish and assured balance of sense ad sensibility, of Chopin’s elusive an instinctive Classical and Romantic bias.

In essence, these are among the finest of all Chopin discs, easily excelling recordings by almost all the most celebrated names in the catalogue. Both are ideally recorded and presented and I can scarcely wait for the next instalment.
Bryce Morrison