*** This title is a reissue of a Japanese release with liner notes in Japanese. ***
Intimate and thoughtfully detailed - Peter Serkin's unconventional Chopin always fascinates and often compels.
Peter Serkin made three all-Chopin albums for RCA Victor, reissued in Japan in a two-CD set, now available to American collectors by way of Arkivmusic.com's on-demand reprint program. The first session transpired in 1978 at the American Academy of Arts and Letters. RCA's Studio A provided the venue for the two subsequent albums, stemming from 1980 and 1981 digital recordings. The 1978 analogue tapes reveal a warmer, mellower piano sound than the digital productions' brighter, closer, and slightly harsherRead more perspective.
Listeners accustomed to Rubinstein's panache or Argerich's volatility may be caught off-guard by Serkin's intimate, thoughtfully detailed, basically reserved approach to this composer. However, repeated hearings gradually reveal the strong sense of design and surface refinement behind Serkin's conceptions. At the pianist's broader-than-usual tempos, the flashy filigree in the Grande Polonaise and the rarely heard Op. 12 Variations acquire heightened rhythmic clarity and welcome breathing room. Also note how Serkin minutely differentiates each of the A-flat Impromptu's repeated phrases as he scans them across the bar lines, or listen to the leisurely unfolding contrapuntal interplay in the great E-flat Op. 55 No. 2 Nocturne and the E major Op. 62 No. 2 Nocturne's last pages.
At first nothing much seems to happen in Serkin's calm, controlled Berceuse, only because the tiny dynamic gradations and shifts in voicing catch you unaware. So do the incisive finales of the Third Ballade and Polonaise-Fantasie, where Serkin otherwise downplays the expected declamatory drama. By contrast, Serkin underplays the F major Op. 15 No. 1 Nocturne's anguished central section and lingers over the Barcarolle's multi-layered details to the point where the music bogs down. His brisk A-flat Op. 64 No. 3 Waltz is a more lilting manifestation of Rachmaninov's unusually brisk and austere rendition. Perhaps the Mazurkas best exemplify Serkin's penchant for the unexpected, from the C major Op. 56 No. 2's strange mixture of earthy swagger and chaste, clipped chords to the pianist's quirky embellishments in the B-flat Op. 7 No. 1. In short, Peter Serkin's unconventional Chopin always fascinates and often compels. Notes in Japanese only.