This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.
Notes and Editorial Reviews
No Chopin connoisseur should miss this release.
The Polish pianist Jan Smeterlin (1892-1967) left a small discography, crowned by his Chopin Nocturne cycle recorded for Philips in 1954, reissued 40 years later on CD as part of the label's short-lived "The Early Years" series, and now available again through Arkivmusic.com's "on-demand" reprint program. Annotator James Methuen-Campbell accurately discusses Smeterlin's tendency to go his own way with Chopin's markings, often reversing the dynamics and alternating articulations. Tempos are fast to the point of rushing through passages that could use more breathing room, such as Op. 32 No. 2's shockingly brisk middle section, Op. 55 No. 2's transitional
measures, and Op. 72 No. 1's climaxes.
However, the genius behind Smeterlin's Nocturnes lies in his mesmerizing handling of melodies. Phrases transpire in conversational fashion, oblivious to barlines, with nearly every accent and dynamic inflection falling in an unexpected yet logical place. Each selection bears this characteristic out. Memorable examples include Op. 15 No. 3's magically-voiced central chorale-like episode; the refreshing freedom from sentimentality Smeterlin brings to the often hackneyed Op. 9 No. 2 E-flat Nocturne; Op. 37 No. 2's delicately honed double notes; and the rarefied textural layering he achieves in Op. 48 No. 2's final pages. You might generalize Smeterlin's Nocturnes as an "old school" counterpart to Nelson Freire's similar, intimately scaled traversals. While the sonics are boxy even by 1954 standards, Smeterlin's multi-hued tonal palette definitely comes across. No Chopin connoisseur should miss this release.
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
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