Chopin - Complete Edition
(Various artists box set)
Deutsche Grammophon's complete Chopin edition was released in the same week as the 150th anniversary of the composer's death, in October. It's a fitting tribute, with 17 CDs featuring Chopin's complete works played by Martha Argerich, Daniel Barenboim, Maurizio Pollini, and Krystian Zimerman, to name a few.
Chopin--The Legendary 1965 Recording
(Martha Argerich, piano)
Pianist Martha Argerich released a handful of riveting CDs this year, but none carried the clout (or the allure) of this recording. Record-label politics kept this fiery performance of Chopin in the vaults until now, but it was worth the wait. Argerich, simply put, remains at her very best in this rare solo outing.
Chopin: 24 Preludes, Sonata No. 2, Polonaise
(Evgeny Kissin, piano)
Russian pianist Evgeny Kissin's career was founded on Chopin, so it's no surprise that his latest disc featuring the composer's 24 Preludes is a gem. Technically, he's spot-on (as usual) and he makes some interesting choices in his timing. The gamble pays off, however, and Kissin's intense performance of the "Funeral March" sonata is just one of many highlights.
Chopin: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2
(Polish Festival Orchestra; Krystian Zimerman, piano and conductor)
Thanks to Polish pianist Krystian Zimerman, we may never hear Chopin's two piano concertos the same way again. Zimerman and his hand-assembled Polish Festival Orchestra give an unconventional but enlightening reading of these two works that seems to focus more on orchestral colors and drama than piano artistry. Not your typical Chopin, but a fascinating interpretation.
Godowsky: Complete Studies on Chopin's Etudes
(Marc-Andre Hamelin, piano)
Marc-Andre Hamelin continues to astound us by performing those lesser-heard, difficult works that belong in everyone's record collection. His double-CD featuring Leopold Godowsky's 53 studies of Chopin's Etudes is no different. Here, Godowsky asks pianists to play right-hand passages with their left, invert melodies, and add inner voices to the well-loved Etudes. Hamelin rises to the challenge with great performances that set the standard for these challenging, yet musical works.
Godowsky: The Complete Studies on Chopin's Etudes
(Marc-André Hamelin, piano)
That Marc-André Hamelin (or any pianist) can play Godowsky's toughest challenge for keyboardists--his 53 studies on Chopin's Etudes--is remarkable enough. But Hamelin makes it through these dizzying (and perhaps cruel) finger exercises with ease, delivering a musically rich and brilliant interpretation. Lyrical and lovely, Hamelin's virtuosity will have you convinced these performances are a walk through the park. They're not.
Legends--Chopin: 4 Ballades, 4 Scherzi
(Vladimir Ashkenazy, piano)
We can once again hear these glistening performances of Vladimir Ashkenazy playing his first cycle of Chopin's Ballades and Scherzos, which have been out of print for nearly 20 years. Passionate, intimate, understated, these 30-year-old performances are classics. Highly recommended.