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am 6. Februar 2010
This 4CD box set from Naïve contains some marvelous Chopin playing by two extraordinary pianists. The set is a combination and reissue of previous full-price 2CDs set by Grigory Sokolov and Janusz Olejniczak. (The latter, not as well-known as Sokolov, is best remembered as the pianist who supplied the playing for Adrien Brody in 'The Pianist' and for playing Chopin himself in a French film, ' The Blue Note.') The Sokolov set, which contains the Second Sonata ('Funeral March'), Op. 25 Études, and the Op. 28 Préludes has been widely heralded as something really special. Chopin: 24 Preludes,Chopin: Preludes / Sonate 2 / Etudes Op 25. Sokolov is surely one of the great ones playing today. I've reviewed some of these CDs as well as a not-to-be-missed DVD. See my review of the original issue Grigory Sokolov - Live in Paris, now at an exorbitant price (but cheaper from a re-seller), and a reissue of the same DVD last year Grigory Sokolov: Live in Paris - Beethoven/Komitas/Prokofiev at an ordinary price. In this box set you get the same jewel box as with the separately available 2CD set but at a marked price advantage. For that reason alone, if you don't have the Sokolov Chopin set, you'll want this one.

But the lagniappe here is the 2CD set of Polish pianist Janusz Olejniczak playing a selection of Mazurkas on one disc and of Polonaises on the other. I did not review it, but Larry van de Sande did and gave it a rave Chopin: 9 Polonaises; 23 Mazurkas. I listened to it for the first time when it arrived in the current box set and am bound to say that I've had mixed feelings about it, mostly positive. In the Mazurkas he tends to insert more rubato than is generally done, but I have to admit (not being Polish, of course) that it somehow sounds authentic to me. Still, there is some taffy-pulling that is not merely noticeable but sometimes intrusive. Yet the performances grew on me. There is a gentleness and almost peasant good-humor about Olejniczak's Mazurkas. As for the Polonaises (a selection which includes three juvenile polonaises in addition to Opp. 26, 40/1&2, 44, 53 and the Andante spianato and grande polonaise brillante) they are played with suavity but not lacking in fire and brilliance. The Andante spianato sings with the best of them but the grand polonaise brillante is more douce than enflammé. (No one beats Argerich in that Polonaise, IMHO.) Still, this is a pianist who should be heard.

This knocked-down price for a 4 CD box-set of such interesting pianism shouldn't be passed up unless one already owns the single issues.

Scott Morrison
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