CHOPIN Études op. 10 & op. 25 / Jan Lisiecki 4791039

Even before he turned 18 . . . he already played with the poise and maturity of a seasoned pro . . . Like every other great musician, he has found a distinctive voice in a sea of more than able musicians who may never distinguish themselves from the crowd.

Exactly one month after his 18th birthday, Calgary-born pianist Jan Lisiecki boldly declares his membership in the company of grown-up artists with this excellent recording . . . all 24 Études have emerged elegantly formed, ready for prime time. Particularly powerfully rendered by Lisiecki are the later, Op. 25 Études, to which he gives goosebump-inducing dramatic depth. What a way to turn 18.

Maturity and mastery prove the hallmarks of this rising star . . . [he] has a natural affinity for the music . . . This latest disc shows why he was so quickly snapped up by the German label. Lisiecki's touch is light and fluid, much like Chopin's was reported to be by his contemporaries. He manages a mysterious, distant feel in the Op 10, No 6, but still with a subtle sense of yearning. But the young Canadian muscles up for the many stormy challenges, registering a thrilling defiance in the so-called "Revolutionary" which closes the Op 10 set with four defiant chords, and chilling us to the bone in the "Winter Wind" Étude. The lovely Cello Étude (Op 25, No 7) . . . is played with beautiful balance . . . Lisiecki brings out the mini-drama which plays out in just under six minutes: the love, the raised voices and then the consoling embrace. The listener is very much 'in the moment' as this glorious slideshow of works rolls out with a superb sense of freshness under Lisiecki's fingers. First class.

Lisiecki's special contribution is the way he balances and brings out the inner voices. His rubato, the rhythmic slowing of the pulse that is so critical in Chopin, is delicately judged and never overstated. His astonishing control allows the music to cascade in a sublime flow. Most impressively, and maturely for an 18-year-old, he never falls into the trap of sentimentalising Chopin.

When, if ever, have you heard the Chopin Etudes played as pure music, given as naturally as breathing yet recreated from an entirely novel perspective? From Jan Lisiecki, Chopin's poetic essence, hidden beneath every thorny, relentlessly focused problem, emerges with an inimitable subtlety and elegance . . . his technique [is] as unobtrusive as it is effortlessly fluent, lissome and precise . . . [Op. 10]: No. 4 is brilliantly articulated . . . What quiet, scintillating charm in No. 5, what intuition in the agitated short-long-short phrases of No. 9. Rarely have I heard a more assured left hand in the cadenzas or flourishes of Op. 25 No. 7 (and this within the context of a magically confided reading) . . . in No. 10 Lisiecki shows himself no stranger to strength and drama when Chopin is in his stormiest B minor mood. Yet overall it is the luminous quality of his musicianship that strikes you at every turn. DG has struck gold . . . for a memorable musical recreation Lisiecki stands alone.

. . . Lisiecki is a young pianist with a musical voice that belies his age . . . How great to hear a youngster with that amount of personality . . . Chopin remains very close to his heart . . . [Chopin Études CD]: Lisiecki's Polish roots clearly go deep and Chopin's music draws from him a very special, and original, response . . . When, if ever, have you heard the Chopin Etudes played as pure music, given as naturally as breathing yet recreated from an entirely novel perspective? . . . [ Mozart Piano Concertos CD]: [a] fine pianist-conductor Christian Zacharias. But this was certainly not a case of an experienced Mozartian leading the way -- Lisiecki is definitely his own man, with strong views about the music . . . a musician with a golden future ahead of him . . . we hope that his talent is allowed to unfold naturally and true to his musical instincts; his is a gift too rare to be squandered.

Lisiecki brandishes a full and sonorous tonal palette, and he takes the fast etudes . . . at a good clip. I like his articulation in the "A Minor, Op. 10, No. 2", whose chromatic line and shifting metrics challenge many a more seasoned artist. The popular "E Major" does attest to Lisiecki's capacity for lyric poetry and fervent drama, respectively . . . With the "E-flat Minor, Op. 10, No. 6" Lisiecki introduces an aura of mystery we had not yet heard . . . the subtle polyphony emerges clearly, as does the sense of harmonic color. Quick pulsations and rounded repeated notes mark the "C Major", whose syncopes seamlessly flow by in instrumental song. The "F Major" sweeps by gracefully with marvelous motor control . . . the "F Minor" relishes a Gothic nervousness that indulges "the dark side." The "A-flat Major" tests Lisiecki's sense of accent, and he makes the considerable spans of the piece graciously fluent. Wrist and finger control find their Herculean labors in the "E-flat Major", in which almost every bar contains a rolled chord, some with huge spans. When the melodic line moves from the top note to the middle, Lisiecki does not break the illusion of a seamless harp . . . Facility of touch and poetic, arpeggiated voice-leading define the A-flat Major "Aeolian Harp" Etude, Op. 25, No. 1, and Lisiecki adds to the annals of those who execute it with love. Counterpoint in left hand triplets in 4/4 make the "F Minor" a devil to perform in strict legato figurations, but we have Lisiecki's rather streamlined approach. The galloping "F Major" moves playfully to B Major in an agogic mix of notes in which white key replace the black keys. Lisiecki makes the sonorous transitions sound easy. Next, in "A Minor", Lisiecki's staccato touch reigns as a motor technique, although his legato must sing, too, while all moves "scherzando". A fine singing line emerges in the "E Minor" after the series of off-beat accents. A subtle sense of touch and fine ear for transition both recommend Lisiecki in this study . . . [In the "G sharp-minor"] Lisiecki's gradations of color dynamics impress me with the range . . . [in the ballade-like "C-sharp Minor"] Lisiecki nurses this poignant etude as though it were a poised and pained nocturne, quite capable of tragic song in various registers and often independently wrought by each hand. Lisiecki controls his "piano" and "pianissimo" dynamics effectively . . . [in the "moto perpetuo" No. 8] Lisiecki¿s traversal lasts barely over a minute, but it stops the heart . . . The violent chromatic octave sequence (for both hands) of the opening of "No. 10 in B Minor" has few rivals for passionate outburst. Lisiecki takes care of his pedal points to etch a lovely, emergent melody . . . The repetition of the opening sequence by Lisiecki, quite monolithic, hearkens to the "D Minor Prelude". The left hand marches and the right hand sweeps across the plains in the so-called "Winter Wind" Etude in A Minor, Op. 25, No. 11. Lisiecki exerts a constant tempo and aerial stamina so that the cumulative effect includes passion, tenderness, and inevitability, all at once. The last, the "Ocean" Etude in C Minor, receives an enigmatic "soft focus" from Lisiecki . . . He imparts a wonderful, graduated color and momentum upon the delicate colors and cross-rhythms of the piece, a four-voice fugal effect powerful and convincing, worthy of the greats who champion Chopin.

. . . [Études op. 10]: No. 12 (the "Revolutionary") is intelligently shaped, with its sweeping left-hand arpeggios scaled to the composer's exact dynamic specifications. In fact, Lisiecki is one of the few pianists to precede the final fortissimo two-handed descending run with a soft rather than loud C major chord on the downbeat¿again, as written. For that matter, he also honors Chopin's text by playing the last two measures of the Op. 25 No. 10 "Butterfly" etude in tempo and pianissimo, an abrupt ending that most pianists change into a congenial ritard. Other Op. 25 highlights include a thoughtfully articulated No. 5, a bouncy and confident No. 8 (the etude in sixths), and fluid, imaginatively countered polyphony in No. 10's central section . . .

The sheer magic of the playing disarms you from the start, and only increases over the 24 "studies" and on repeated listenings to them. It misses the point to say that Lisiecki is unfazed by the technical challenges. They disappear in playing that explores the brighter hemisphere of brilliant. It's not that he can't break your heart, which he does in the bittersweet Op. 25, No. 7, channeling Bellini through Chopin via a modern sensibility. He doesn't make this music sound easy -- rather, while he's playing it, that it's the only music that could possibly exist.

In sein Jackett muss er noch hineinwachsen, Chopins Etüden aber sind jetzt schon Jan Lisieckis Kragenweite. Gerade hat der 18-jährige Kanadier beide Zyklen auf CD herausgebracht, in einer ganz erstaunlichen, im besten Sinne frühreifen Interpretation. Die 12 Stücke des Opus 10 hat er am Mittwoch auch bei seinem Berlin-Auftritt dabei . . . [Bachs B-Dur-Partita]: ein weiteres Exerzitium, ausgeführt mit seidenweichem Anschlag und witzig kontrastiert durch ein Menuett von Ignaz Paderewski . . . Aberwitzig schwer in ihrer dissonanzgestählten Vollgriffigkeit sind auch Bohuslav Martinus "Drei tschechische Tänze". Der phänomenal begabte junge Pianist aber hämmert sie so lässig in die Tasten, dass sie geradezu einen jazzigen Touch bekommen . . . [Chopins Etüden]: Hier verbinden sich Konzentrations- und Fingerfertigkeit auf höchstem Niveau -- und erlauben dem Interpreten, jenseits der reinen Partiturbewältigung stets nach dem melodischen Kern der Stücke zu forschen, feine atmosphärische Schattierungen zu setzen. Staunender Jubel . . .

Der mittlerweile 18-jährige hat technisch etwas drauf, mühelos perlen die Läufe in linker und rechter Hand . . . [tatsächlich betont er] nicht die mechanische Sonderbegabung. Vielmehr lässt er mit transparentem, souveränem Anschlag die Texturen und Klangflächen für sich sprechen, gerade auch in einem heroischen Werk wie der Revolutions-Etüde . . . ein faszinierendes, feinziseliertes Kaleidoskop der pianistischen Klangfarben und Muster . . .

Er spielt derart brillant Klavier, dass er sich nun an zwei technisch heikle, anspruchsvolle Chopin-Stücke wagt. Auf seiner neuen CD lässt er vertrackte Etüden wild aufblühen. Glückwunsch! . . . der ideale Gegensatz zum letzten Album . . . [der] kecke Schalk im Nacken hilft ihm, ganz Erstaunliches zu leisten . . . Die schwingende Bewegung der "Windharfe" entfaltet sich mühelos, aber hinter den Girlanden scheinbar schwereloser Töne, dem "Rieseln von Harmonien" . . . stehen eisenharte Anforderungen an Finger und Kopf. Lisieckis dezenter Einsatz von Rubato dient keiner wolkigen Auffassungs-Mogelei, sondern der Spannungssteigerung, die in leisen Tönen umso effektvoller gelingt . . . die Suche nach der Helligkeit, nach dem Glanz in Chopins Übungen und Eingebungen, diesen berauschenden Kampf besteht der jugendlichen Jan Lisiecki mit fliegenden Fingern . . . Was immer er demnächst anpackt, es kann nur spannend werden.

. . . er spielt so, wie er ist: Geradlinig, aber charmant, offen, aber wertebewusst . . . eine handwerklich saubere Aufnahme mit einer durch und durch positiven Ausstrahlung.

Unter den zahllosen Chopin-Einspielungen nimmt diese CD eine Spitzenstelle ein. Wann hört man schon Soloklaviermusik so rein in ihrer ganzen Wärme bar jeder Kälte technischer Ausgelassenheit.

. . . [Jan Lisiecki liefert] mit Chopins Etüden wahre Wunderwerke an pianistischer Kunst . . . [er favorisiert] einen wärmeren, weniger harten Klang. Beides zusammen nutzt der junge Pianist, um sozusagen ins Innere der Etüden zu horchen und deren Seele hörbar zu machen . . . Er gestaltet jede Etüde als kleinen, kostbaren Kosmos und lotet ihn in seinen emotionalen wie auch in seinen rhetorischen Möglichkeiten derart profund aus, dass es einem manchmal vorkommt, als würden uns diese Etüden etwas erzählen. Nicht, dass er dabei mit Extravaganzen Aufmerksamkeit heischen würden, sondern im Gegenteil, weil er Chopin mit einer seelenverwandten, jünglingshaften und tief empfundenen Selbstverständlichkeit spielt. Das wirkt letztlich wie ein Sog, und vielleicht ist es genau das, was diese Chopin-Einspielung so einzigartig macht.

Weder versucht er, Geschwindigkeitsrekorde zu brechen noch die poetisierende Weichzeichnung. Sehr strukturbewusst geht er die Stücke an, entdeckt Mittelstimmen . . . in der berühmten "Revolutionsetüde" . . . stürmt der Kanadier die Barrikaden und lässt es ordentlich krachen . . . eine ansprechende Einspielung der beiden Etüden-Zyklen . . .

. . . [bei Lisiecki besticht] nicht nur die geradezu vollkommene pianistische Beherrschung sondern auch seine tiefe musikalische Durchdringung der Etüden Chopins. Es ist eine besondere Mischung aus Subtilität und Intensität, die Jan Lisieckis Chopin-Spiel aufregende Faszination verleiht. Schon die Anfangsetüde aus op. 25, die so genannte "Äolsharfen-Etüde" mit ihren magisch-schwebenden Tongirlanden . . . perlt bei Jan Lisiecki trotz ihrer virtuosen Anforderungen nicht nur leise-luftig und scheinbar mühelos dahin, sondern wird außerdem durch feine Rubati und behutsame Intensitätssteigerungen mit subtiler Dramatik aufgeladen . . . Man spürt förmlich bei diesem jungen Pianisten, wie ernst es ihm mit dem ist, was Chopin immer von seinen Schülern forderte und worüber Jan Liesiecki einmal selber sagte: "Wirklich jeder Ton muss singen; und bei aller Mühe muss doch die Einfachheit das höchste Ziel sein". Nobel und schlicht, aber ohne Simplifizierung verdichtet Lisiecki diese musikalischen Charakterstücke mit seinem so kantablen wie konturierten Klavierspiel auf ihre Ausdruckskerne. Auch die pianistisch virtuosesten Etüden mit ihren Akkordbrechungen, Skalen, Terzen- oder Oktavenketten wirken dabei nie wie bloße Tastenakrobatik, sondern fließen mit ihren feinen Stauungen und Entladungen gleichsam organisch. Fazit: Rundum hörenswert! Chopins Etüden-Kunst in einer geradezu klassisch stimmigen und zugleich mitreißenden Interpretation.

. . . [op. 10 nos. 4 & 8]: une sensibilité incontestable . . . [op. 25]: le pianiste ne traite-t-il pas chaque pièce comme un conte à narrer ? Puis, à partir de la Neuvième Etude de l'opus 25, il avance tout droit vers le dénouement . . . la "douceur" du début de l'ut mineur (n° 12) intrigue, mais c'est pour mieux exprimer l'ouverture à la fin, tandis que l'autre ut mineur (op. 10 n° 12) est entièrement dominé par la fureur.

. . . [Lisiecki] è talmente oltre il problema della tecnica -- non si avverte mai la minima percezione dell'affanno del pianista che sa di dover scalare una vetta -- da risultare godibilissima. I due libri composti di dodici pezzi ciascuno sembrano infatti far parte di un unico disegno che l'interprete canadese-polacco riesce a rileggere come capitoli di un unico romanzo senza parole. Insomma, più che "aggredito", si tratta di uno Chopin "raccontato" attraverso una gamma di sonorità che più ricca è difficile immaginare.

. . . di nuovo [Lisiecki] esce sorprendente: mai dimostrativo, superlativo nel virtuosismo, ma soprattutto semplice. Con suono naturale polverizza note, ha tocco scintillante e cantabilità fresca . . . Anche negli Studi, restituiti al piacere della conversazione, guizzante, fulminea.

Lisiecki vuole sottolineare la bellezza, non la difficoltà tecnica, e lo fa con il sorriso sulle labbra e la grinta di chi è conscio delle proprie potenzialità senza però che la modestia dello studente . . . sia soppiantata dall'egomania. Schiva con naturalezza quei languori stucchevoli di cui sono pervase tante letture chopiniane senza scadere nella mera esibizione musicale. Ma la caratteristica più interessante del cd . . . è che da ogni studio, quelli intimisti come quelli di carattere brillante, si materializzano l'interprete e la sua personalità: Jan riesce quindi nell'intento di darne una lettura fresca e inedita, sua e di nessun altro.