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Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Four Ballades
(in G minor; F major; A flat major and F minor)
Grande Polonaise précédée d'un Andante spianato
, Op. 61
, Op. 66
Freddy Kempf (piano)
Recorded at Nybrokajen 11 (the former Academy of Music) Stockholm, July 2000
BIS CD-1160
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Freddy Kempf playing Chopin - or is it Chopin according to Kempf?

The Four Ballades gave me more pleasure than the remaining pieces on this recording.

Ballade in G minor, Opus 23. - Kempf's reading has delicacy and his colour contrasts in the opening passages have a beauty that is nicely sustained in the rippling music that follows. One hears Chopin as one might expect and the finale is delivered with a firm authority. The Ballade in F Major is constructed in more simple form. Kempf opens it in wistful, poetic mood then becomes more heroic for the exciting central theme. The similarly constructed Ballades in A flat Major and in F minor enable Kempf, with his immense pianistic skills and innate musicianship, the opportunity to paint pictures and make the music sing.

The Andante Spianato section of the Grande Polonaise précédée d'un Andante spianato is Chopin as I prefer to hear it - a joy. His interpretation is deliciously smooth and tenderly seductive. There is about it a haunting nocturnal quality. What a shame then that the Grande Polonaise section is treated so harshly, the notes seeming to tumble over each other, rushing headlong over a precipice.

For some unknown reason, the final piece on this recording, the Fantaisie-impromptu was not published until six years after Chopin's death despite its early opus number. The opening section is uncomfortably hurried. Kempf's softer melodic cantabile passage is followed by a dazzling display of technical brilliance but again, it is cruelly rushed.

Kempf obviously feels he has an affinity with Chopin, and I'm sure he has, but I wonder whether that composer would have approved of the treatment his music receives at the hands of this undoubtedly gifted young pianist. There needs to be more poetry in the music and less bravura.
Grace Barber

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