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Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Three nocturnes, Op. 9 [16:07]
Nocturne No. 4, Op. 15 No. 1 [4:36]
Barcarolle in F sharp, Op. 60 [9:09]
Two nocturnes, Op. posth. [7:25]
Nocturne No. 13 in C minor, Op. 48 No. 1 [6:25]
Ballade No. 4 in F minor, Op. 52 [11:31]
Impromptu No. 1 in A flat, Op. 29 [3:46]
Fantaisie-Impromptu in C sharp minor, Op. 66 [5:07]
Polonaise in A flat Heroique, Op. 53 [6:50]
Valse in A flat L’adieu Op. 69 No. 1 [3:41]
Dai Asai (piano)
rec. dates unknown, Studio Halle, Germany
EUROARTS EA3012 [74:32]

Dai Asai is a promising young Chopin interpreter, and he brings a sensibility attuned to the composer: poetic, sensitive in tone, and free of the dryness which plagues many young conservatory graduates. I this recital sells his talents short, it is because of the programming. Starting off with seven nocturnes and the barcarolle creates a crippling lack of dramatic contrast; ending with the faster, more volatile works (fourth ballade) is too little, too late. With the first two nocturnes, my initial impression was favorable, but then the album continued with more of the same. Even the powerful Ballade seems oddly small in scale, as if it has been miniaturized. There is little dynamic range, little contrast, little contrast.
 
Maybe that’s partly because of the very small acoustic, “studio” in the most constricted sense. The “Heroic” polonaise gives me a strong sense that Dai must be a more inspiring performer on the live stage in the concert hall. At any rate, I hope he gets the chance to prove it. His best playing here, in the nocturnes and the final waltz, reveals a sensitive interpreter; the lesser stuff shows a lack of dramatic inspiration. That said, Dai Asai has overcome the first hurdle, of not treating this music like a series of hurdles or a sprint to the finish. I hope with maturity he can become a Chopin interpreter of real stature.
 
The EuroArts promo material talks about the recorded sound more than it talks about Chopin. The Steinway is realistically presented, a little bright for my taste but that can be endemic to the instrument. Unfortunate that they put it in such a small sonic canvas.
 
Brian Reinhart