CHOPIN Étude Piano Sonata Pires

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FRÉDÉRIC CHOPIN

Klaviersonate · Piano Sonata
No. 3 op. 58

2 Nocturnes op. 62

9 Mazurkas

3 Walzer · Waltzes op. 64

Polonaise No. 7 op. 61
»Polonaise Fantaisie«

Cellosonate · Cello Sonata op. 65
Maria João Pires
Pavel Gomziakov
Int. Release 25 May. 2009
2 CDs / Download
CD DDD 0289 477 7483 9 GH 2
Maria João Pires and Deutsche Grammophon – the perfect match is still a wow!


Tracklisting

CD 1: Chopin

Frédéric Chopin (1810 - 1849)
Piano Sonata No.3 In B Minor, Op.58

3.
0:00
10:23

Deux Nocturnes, Op.62

Mazurka No.36 in A minor Op.59 No.1

Maria João Pires

Gesamtspielzeit: 56:11

CD 2: Chopin

Frédéric Chopin (1810 - 1849)
Mazurka No.40 in F minor Op.63 No.2

3.
0:00
2:08

Mazurka No.41 in C sharp minor Op.63 No.3

Waltz No.6 in D flat, Op.64 No.1 -"Minute"

Waltz No.7 in C sharp minor, Op.64 No.2

Waltz No.8 in A flat, Op.64 No.3

Maria João Pires

Cello Sonata in G minor, Op.65

12.
0:00
3:56

Maria João Pires, Pavel Gomziakov

Maria João Pires

Gesamtspielzeit: 1:09:35

The wonderful Portuguese pianist Maria Joao Pires has just released a captivating two-CD set of late works by Chopin (Deutsche Grammophon), providing another welcome example of her austere, intense keyboard sorcery . . . If ever there was a player born to get to the heart of Mozart¿s deceptively simple constructions, it¿s Pires.

Pires¿s own approach is devoid of the flashy ornament, the excited rampage. Listen how subtly she handles the Sonata, highlighting the interior dramas, flecking its turbulent motions with heart-catching tiny rubatos. This is playing of total clarity and refinement. The performance of the Op 61 Polonaise-Fantasie is another wonder: poetic, inward-looking, cast in a spirit of reverie . . . The transience of life and beauty; how keenly we feel this as the first chord of the B major Op 62 Nocturne subsides into its echo. But that¿s just one of many magical moments in this CD release -- for once presented by DG with the dignity that the music-making deserves.

Maria João Pires, that most elusive and magical of pianists, has been coaxed back into the recording studios for this recital of late Chopin. It is essential listening. You only have to hear the opening notes of the Third Sonata to be reminded of the limpidness of her touch and the subtlety with which she inflects her rhythm and phrasing. But none of this is self-conscious. It is as if she were a natural conduit through which the music passes directly from Chopin to the attentive ear. She seems to be the very embodiment of Chopin¿s style, its grace, melancholy, nobility and finesse. For the Cello Sonata, she is joined by the young Russian cellist Pavel Gomziakov in a performance of transcendent beauty. It sings with passion, nostalgia, eloquence and intimacy.

Much of the playing is very fine -- at her best she is one of the most compelling pianists around today . . . Best of all is the B minor Sonata with which she begins her stroll. It's a bold, big-boned performance that rather dismisses the scherzo, but presents the slow movement in epic terms. The other large-scale works -- a carefully paced Polonaise-Fantasie, and a finely communicative account with Pavel Gomziakov of the cello work -- are successful, too . . . the exceptional quality of this music is never devalued.

The great Portuguese pianist Maria Joao Pires doesn't record often, but when she does you have to pay attention . . . Pires's interpretations are the musical equivalent of a fine black-and-white photograph, showing every nuance and displaying remarkable balance and composition . . . Pires is about elegance and poise, but the passionate side of Chopin is carefully veiled behind a silk screen.

As great as Pires has been in the past, she's even better now: Each phrase has astonishing authority, each note rings out with a combination of force and radiance and, in a throwback to 19th-century pianist, chords are "broken" (each note sounded individually) with an eloquence beyond that of Vladimir Horowitz.

. . . music-making of the utmost caliber and integrity . . . wonderful Chopin-playing where you feel you're listening to the music rather than to the pianist . . . clarity and resilience of line, luminous singing tone, a near ideal balance between aristocratic poise and emotional absorption, and a rare poetic eloquence. In the Third Sonata her notably personal rubarto adds to, rather than detracts from, the music's sense of flow . . . thanks to her gorgeously sustained line and tonal control it remains utterly compelling . . . Pires's account is deeply satisfying. The Op. 62 Nocturnes are beautifully done, as are the Op. 59 Mazurkas . . . [Cello Sonata]: This is a broad and reflective reading, with lovely tone from both cello and piano, helped by DG's terrific sound, and a sense of dialogue and shared understanding that is very rewarding . . . this set will provide lasting nourishment and pleasure.

. . . there are moments of rapturous beauty in every piece. Take the Polonaise-fantaisie: the fantasy element is very much to the fore, and if you trust her intuition, there are many marvels to be revealed . . . A tantalising set, then. There is some extraordinary musicianship to be found here . . .

She sounds, unlike many of the Chopin players I admire, particularly relaxed . . . These performances are beautifully expressive; there's nothing casual about them. One might be surprised at the gentleness of the Polonaise-Fantaisie, or the wistful playfulness of the second waltz of op. 64, but those qualities seem to emerge from the music itself . . . Pires offers an equally valid interpretation that is not without its tension. The Cello Sonata with the vibrant young cellist Pavel Gomziakov is a special treat . . . this performance has become an instant favorite . . . This collection is, as expected from this pianist, a delight.

Sie braucht kein großes Tasten-Show-Spektakel, sondern zählt zu den introvertierteren Vertreterinnen ihrer Zunft -- ganz im Dienste der Musik also . . . [Nocturnes]: Gespielt von Maria Joao Pires ist es fast so, als würde sie einem ganz leise und beruhigend ins Ohr sprechen, so berührend-direkt ist ihr Spiel, so erzählend der Duktus und so schwelgerisch der Klang. Leidenschaft, Dramatik und schüchterne Erhabenheit schwingen mit . . . [Mazurkas]: auch hier besticht Pires durch ihre Interpretation . . . Bei der Entstehung des Chopin Albums scheint es so, als sei eine tiefe Hingabe und ein persönliches Anliegen im Spiel gewesen.

Auch nach der großen Chopin-Feier wird sich die Aufnahme von all den glitzernden Fingerakrobat-Produkten abheben -- als beklemmend wahrhaftig, als abgeklärter Blick hinter die Fassade des Mondänen, des Effektvollen, des Pathetischen . . . Pires macht diese Chronologie dann auch sehr überzeugend als Prozess der essentiellen Verdichtung, der Einkehr, ja gar der Überwindung der eigenen Virtuosität kenntlich. So zeigen sich ausgerechnet die kürzeren Charakter- und Tanzstücke . . . als auratische Höhepunkte dieser Seelenreise, dieser späten Selbstfindung eines innerlich zum Zerbersten gespannten Genies . . . Bei der Cello-Sonate erweist sich . . . Gomziakov als seelenverwandter Lyriker . . .

. . . sie prescht nicht mit vorschneller Virtuosität durch die Musik [dritte Klaviersonate], sondern lotet deren auffallend komplexe Kontrapunktik bis in feinste Binnen-Verästelungen aus. Man darf ihren außerordentlichen Einfallsreichtum an gestalterischer Fantasie bewundern sowie ihre diesem Werk durchaus angemessenen Tendenz zu traumverlorener Kantabilität.

Avec les années, sa sonorité s'est singulièrement élargie, comme si la pianiste brésilienne avait laissé tomber une barrière psychologique qui l'empêchait d'aller tout à fait au bout de ses convictions, prisonnière de l'image de "pure mozartienne" qu'on avait fabriquée autour d'elle. Dans quelques-uns des derniers opus de Chopin, son jeu est simplement vivant, capricieux au sens fort du terme, comme improvisé, débarrassé de toute afféterie comme de toute grandiloquence -- même dans le finale de la Sonate no. 3 . . . [c'est] toujours parlant, toujours convaincant . . . parmi les nombreuses versions récentes, celle-ci n'est pas loin d'être la plus pertinente.

. . . c'est un retour dans un paysage longuement visité, traversé sans fausses notes, dans une compréhension intime et naturelle. Effusion, introspection, pudeur . . . la sensibilité fraternelle de la pianiste en font l'une des plus discrètes mais éloquentes interprètes de Chopin dont elle nous fait partager la passion, de l'intérieur . . . [Elle] s'accorde un nouveau chant de l'âme d'une indiscutable profondeur. La vérité du jeu montre aujourd'hui comment son apprentissage à Munich, auprès de Karl Engel l'a mise sur le droit chemin: celui de la discipline et de l'éveil. Accomplissement progressif où la conscience musicale se double d'une écoute quasi instinctive du corps . . . le naturel palpitant, la facilité sans superficialité, l'engagement instinctif et organique du jeu confirment la très grande Chopinienne . . .




    The Voice of Late-Period Chopin

    In that part of the book of my memory before which little can be read, there is a heading that says:
    "Incipit vita nova: Here begins a new life."
    Dante, Vita nova


    A conversation between Maria João Pires and Frédéric Sounac, a university lecturer and writer on music theatre whose path has often crossed with that of the Portuguese pianist.

    Frédéric Sounac: Maria João, for the present release you have chosen works that Chopin wrote towards the end of his life, in other words, between 1844 - the date of his Third Sonata - and 1849, the year of his death. I was wondering if you felt that there is such a thing as “late-period Chopin" in the sense that there is undoubtedly such a thing as “late-period Beethoven". And do you think that this is a generally accepted point of view within our culture?

    Maria João Pires: What I wanted was not a systematic traversal of Chopin's output but a sort of stroll through this late period. The Third Sonata is a very important work for me, one that I have always regarded as a point of departure - a door opening on to a new awareness of things on Chopin's part. But tell me, since you've mentioned it, what do you associate with late-period Beethoven?

    FS: Well . . . a certain indifference to superficial effects, a radical approach to form and an exploration of sonority, a transcendence of his own style and a visionary refusal to accept all limitations. It's essentially this that fascinates us today. I recall a text by Adorno on this very subject. It ends with the words: “In the history of art, late works are the catastrophes." We need to understand this term in its Greek sense of a reversal, an upset and a dénouement.

    MJP: That's a very fine expression, but, you know, I think that it's equally true of Chopin. People always speak of the fantastical character of the Second Sonata, with its blackness and ghostly final movement without form or tonality, but I think that it refers to states that are very clearly defined, namely, grief and dread. The Third Sonata, conversely, may seem more tightly controlled, but it is in fact profoundly chaotic: there's an energy here that rises and falls incessantly as if Chopin were recalling past struggles and was using them to leap forwards to an entirely new logic. Whenever I play this work, I have the impression that it starts by taking everything apart before reassembling it again.

    FS: In the opening movement there is a profusion of ideas that is almost destabilizing, it's true, but one suddenly discovers radiant melodies with a wonderful vocal quality to them. It's a work that sings a great deal. When you speak of a struggle, are you alluding to inner conflicts and aesthetic contradictions from which Chopin is trying to break free?

    MJP: I'm talking about suffering. I think that, above and beyond the romantic cliché, there was a very real gulf between the demands that Chopin faced as a creative artist and the sophisticated life that he led - a sort of yoke that was productive in its way but that was also destructive. Whenever I play the final movement, which demands an insane amount of energy from me, I feel physically extremely relaxed at the end, allowing me to glimpse the “new consciousness" of which I spoke a moment ago. I feel very strongly that in these late works, pain has finally been integrated and in a way alleviated by its acceptance. Schubert does this entirely naturally from the very beginning, whereas in Chopin's case it's the object of a protracted search.

    FS: That's interesting, because I find something Schubertian about the tone of these final op. 64 Waltzes, especially the second one, which is the most frequently performed. Listening to you now, I have the impression that you attribute an almost philosophical range to this music - as if it had formed a new relationship with experience and memory by introducing a sort of distance from itself, like an extremely gentle form of irony.

    MJP: Yes, it's certainly very difficult to explain, but I sense an insight here that is of this order. We are not dealing with actual passions but with a memory of them, which in itself holds out the promise of our being able to transcend those passions.

    FS: It seems to me that this is also the case with the Cello Sonata, the work for which we have the greatest number of surviving manuscripts and sketches. Chopin wrote it for his friend, the cellist Auguste Franchomme, and was full of doubts on the subject, while early audiences, including the pianist Ignaz Moscheles, were perplexed. How did you approach it?

    MJP: Through the voice, the voice that seeks to express what is otherwise inexpressible - that of the cello, of course. The cult of memory that one senses in Chopin is profoundly linked to the timbre of this instrument, which also filters through in many of the melodies in his piano pieces.

    FS: How did you set about choosing your partner?

    MJP: I can never say exactly what it is about a musician that moves me: it's something intangible, a sort of mysterious affinity that comes into being spontaneously. With Pavel Gomziakov, I found a dignity of style and a certain austerity in his tone that are perfectly suited to this music and that touched me immediately.

    FS: This sonata contains dance tunes, bel canto motifs and epic-lyrical passages entirely typical of Chopin. It's as if he were essaying a kind of veiled recapitulation, like a stump drawing.

    MJP: Yes, the idea of a stump drawing is crucial. During the rehearsals, I asked Trevor Pinnock to listen to us, and something quite extraordinary happened. In the final movement, he advised us to play a particular passage with more pride - this slightly haughty side that Chopin sometimes has. It was a very subtle, intuitive suggestion, and when we tried it, it was a mere trace of this pride that emerged: our intention was there, but it seemed to be hidden behind a veil. He gave us an idea, while also showing us that we should accept this attenuation of our own free will. The ideal would be to remain in a constant state of discovery, as if we were permanently sight-reading the music.

    FS: I think that that is a good illustration of what I was saying about the hidden irony of these pieces: if one goes beyond this, even unconsciously, one ends up with a caricature that sounds like bad Chopin. In his annotated edition of the Third Sonata, which we were looking at yesterday, Alfred Cortot repeatedly reminds the performer of this risk, of which he was extremely conscious himself. But while we're talking about the scores, where do you see signs of late Chopin in the piano writing? It seems that he was becoming increasingly interested in counterpoint...

    MJP: There's certainly a greater sophistication and boldness in the harmonic writing. If you play certain bars from the Third Sonata out of context - but this is also true of many other works - one could mistake their date of composition. I am always as amazed as I am moved by the chromaticism of the Mazurka op. 68 no. 4, the last one of all... Wagner, of course, as well as Fauré, Franck and Debussy drew directly on this source of inspiration. And Scriabin, of course! As for the question of counterpoint, it's true that Chopin sketched a number of canons and that there are some extremely subtle passages using imitative procedures that create strange dissonances in the op. 62 Nocturnes, for example. But one shouldn't assume that this reflects any belated desire to live by the “rules" or a Jansenist return to a greater rigour. Chopin always revered Bach, and I feel that this relative horizontalization of the writing is the result of total freedom in the treatment of the lines, almost an instance of improvisation, certainly not a conscious demonstration of professional competence.

    FS: It seems to me that the form attests to this same plasticity: flying in the face of all the rules, Chopin omits the restatement of the main theme in the opening movements of the Third Sonata and the Cello Sonata. Then there is the Polonaise-Fantaisie, the very title of which says it all: here the traditional ternary structure fragments in a thousand different directions, all of them apparently contradictory, but the work's unity remains lodged in the memory. Here, too, there are shadows of the dance, of a martyred homeland and of epic revolt that turn round and round, transcending the genre as they do so.

    MJP: It's an extraordinarily poetic work in which nothing can be foreseen. But one must also listen to the shorter pieces that only seem to be less audacious. Chopin continued to write waltzes and mazurkas right up to the end of his life, just as he had always done, but behind the dancing there is a gravity that both inspires us and alerts us - I almost feel like saying that he makes us aware of our responsibilities, inviting us to go beyond ourselves, something that is the most precious of life's lessons. It's the path that leads to the vita nova, and this, ultimately, is the voice of late-period Chopin.

    Frédéric Sounac and Maria João Pires

    7/2008