Another post on Chopin? Why not, given that the Chopin competition in Warsaw is going on right now, and I’ve mentioned in my previous post on the Préludes how important this competition is.
Furthermore, I’ve just had an interesting discussion on the Nocturnes on a forum, which triggered me to listen to several of my Nocturnes again.
The Nocturnes actually are not one single opus, they are individual or coupled words Chopin wrote over nearly 20 years. They share however a common character, not surprisingly, nocturnal.
Chopin is the name everybody associates with this “genre” these days, but actually other composers (e.g. the Irishman John Fields) have used this title previously.
They are less focused on virtuosity and glamour, but are much more intimate. So you don’t need all the pianistic firepower to shine here, you need delicacy and insight.
The are many good recordings out there. Rubinstein has recorded them at least 3 times (my preferred version dates from the 1930s), the Chopin legend Samson François has done a version, Claudio Arrau, Nelson Freire, and many others are worth considering.
However, my personal favorites are Ivan Moravec and Maria Joao Pires.
Moravec’s Nocturnes are legendary, are rightfully so. I’ve never heard the Nocturnes played with more intensity and emotion. The recording is from the 1960s with only average sound quality but you’ll quickly for get that listening to this album. Just outstanding.
I haven’t been very friendly to Pires in my recent review of her album with Gardiner, but there is absolutely no fault to be found with this recording. Less intense then Moravec, but even more intimate. You feel like you’re sitting at home late at night in front of your fireplace, having a nice glass of wine in your hand, and she’s in the room playing just for you. This is the image that ever always comes up when I listen to her version.
I wouldn’t want to miss either one of these two outstanding recordings.
My rating for both albums: 5 stars
You can find the remastered Moravec here (Prestoclassical).