Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Ballade No.4 in F minor, Op. 52[13:02]
Nocturne in C sharp minor, Op. 27 No.1 [5:16]
Nocturne in F sharp minor, Op. 48 No.2 [7:40]
Barcarolle in F sharp, Op. 60 [9:25]
Impromptu No.1 in A flat [3:52]
Impromptu No.2 in F sharp [5:43]
Impromptu No.3 in G flat [6:02]
Fantaisie-impromptu in C sharp minor [5:08]
Prelude in C sharp minor, Op. 45 [5:29]
Scherzo No.4 in E, Op. 54 [11:50]
Grande Valse Brillante in A minor, Op. 34 No.2 [6:17]
Evgeni Koroliov (piano)
rec. 2011 Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Dahlem, Berlin, Germany
TACET 202 [79:41]
A few days after I first listened to Evgeni Koroliov’s Chopin recital, all I could remember of it was the single word “slow”. There is a lot of very slow playing here, as if that is the one and only key to profundity but the great danger is of profound becoming plain.
That’s why I was so impressed with Yevgeny Sudbin’s Chopin album, released in autumn 2011, reviewed here in February, and on its way to becoming my 2012 Recording of the Year. Since so many pianists believe that making Chopin sound poetic means playing it as slowly and sleepily as possible; Sudbin’s thesis that passion and romantic warmth don’t demand stylistic uniformity was a breath of fresh air. The present CD is what Sudbin argued against: Koroliov finds the cliché Chopin style, sedate and soft-edged, and sticks to it through the rhapsodic fourth ballade, the enormous fourth scherzo - here not nearly witty or vivacious enough - and rather faceless interpretations of the four impromptus.
Predictably the nocturnes go best, beautifully rendered even if they feel slightly precious. Koroliov’s tone is consistently pretty and the piano almost glows, although near the end of the second impromptu there’s an engineering glitch where it suddenly becomes glassy and jumps across the aural picture. The prelude in C sharp minor is a welcome entry, comparatively rare in recital, but after that I’m running out of positives for this recital. It’s pretty. It’s good if you want to contemplate the extraordinary beauty of the sound of a Steinway D. Evgeni Koroliov’s skills as a pianist are not in question; his Chopin is a collection of beautiful, dead things.
Beautiful, dead things: Chopin playing at its most clichéd.
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