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This is Volume 2 in our series of solo piano works by Chopin, played by the French-Canadian pianist Louis Lortie. Recording exclusively for Chandos, Lortie is recognised as one of the finest interpreters of Chopin today. He first recorded Chopins Études for Chandos more than twenty years ago; the disc was named as one of the 50 great performances by superlative pianists by BBC Music. Volume 1 of his current Chopin series also has received excellent reviews: the magazine Pianist wrote: He is a pianist of our time when it comes to speed, energy and an unfussy approach to Chopin. His way of playing is like a sharply cut steel sculpture, super elegant and with not one single smudge. And in the words of International Piano: These are full-blooded and eloquent performances, an auspicious start to what looks likely to become one of the finest of Chopin surveys. The ballade was associated with French poetry up until the mid-nineteenth century, when Chopin was among the first to transform the genre into a purely musical form for solo piano. His four ballades, recorded here, are among his most extraordinary and powerful works, full of dramatic contrasts, with moments of lyrical tenderness followed by passages of rambunctious energy. The Irish composer John Field invented the piano nocturne as a lyrical and dreamy short piece, a charming and languorous creation that was later transformed and extended by Chopin into something with a much wider emotional range, and a general sense of wistfulness. This Chopin style of nocturne soon came to replace the Fieldian style as the preferred model of the genre. The simplicity and directness of expression found in the nocturnes have made them the most popular of all Chopins works. Composed towards the end of his life, the Barcarolle (originally a Venetian gondoliers song) for solo piano is a melancholy, but sweepingly romantic work that conjures up strong images of Venetian boats, water, and oars. Also on this disc is the Berceuse (inspired by the traditional mood of the lullaby), based around a single four-bar theme which Chopin ornaments in increasingly elaborate ways as the piece develops.
I confess that (Berceuse) is one of the very few pieces of Chopin toward which I have felt something of akin to a lifelong aversion. How could adult, dog or cat be lulled into a sense of repose with all that incessant busyness going on? Lortie has converted me. He plays this piece with such ineffable tenderness, so lovingly and simply, that I can no longer resist recognizing it as one of the most beautiful lullabies imaginable. It still doesn't make me want to take a nap, but whenever I hear the Chopin Berceuse in the future, I will listen with fresh ears. Thank you Louis Lortie! --IRR, Mar'12
The core of Louis Lortie's recital in this second volume of his survey of Chopin's piano music is the four Ballades, interspersed with some of the Nocturnes and with the Berceuse Op 57 and the Barcarolle Op 60 as substantial extras. His first volume (CHAN 10588) was released in 2010, the bicentenary year when the market was awash with Chopin's music. Even so, Lortie's disc stood out for its thoughtful pianism and its well-considered programming, sensibly avoiding a routine, completist approach by placing the four Scherzos in the recital-like context of Nocturnes and the B flat minor Sonata. The same is true of this new disc, and, now that record companies obsession with Chopin has abated somewhat, there is even more of a chance to focus on and appreciate Lortie's tasteful style and his way of allowing the music to unfurl with unforced poetry and natural contours. He plays such familiar Nocturnes as the F major Op 15 No 1, the E flat Op 9 No 2 and the melancholy F minor Op 55 No 1, but they come across as fresh, spontaneous inventions, Lortie's limpid touch combining with his discreet palette of colours to echo in interpretation the perfection of form and expression that Chopin enshrined in the pieces. The restful lilt and gentle flights of fantasy in the Berceuse are softly articulated, the Barcarolle undulating tenderly and spinning its soothing melody towards its joyous apex. Lortie maintains astute perspective in this music, never exaggerating or imposing artificial effects but letting the innate beauty tell its own tale. Similarly, the Ballades assert their narrative quality and, in Lortie's hands, find an ideal equilibrium between quiet contemplation and dramatic flourish. **** CLASSICAL CD OF THE WEEK --Telegraph,24/03/12
...throughout his recital you will hear playing of the most patrician poise, fluidity and tonal finesse. A celebrated English pianist was once described as 'a virtuoso of dreaming'. The same could be said of Louis Lortie. --Gramophone,May'12
…a highly satisfying recital Performance **** Recording **** --BBC Music Magazine, Jul'12