These recordings were produced in 1965 by E. Alan Silver for his highly respected Connoisseur Society label, and the set became an instant classic on its release. Nonesuch?s reissue (which dates from 1991) captures the rich, warm sound of the originals perfectly. Despite the competition, which includes famous complete sets by Rubinstein and Nikita Magaloff, it is these Moravec performances to which I return again and again.
What is it that most clearly defines the uniqueness of Moravec?s readings? It is not one quality, but rather a combination which includes an extraordinary ear for harmonic motion and development, an ability toRead more extract a very wide range of color from the instrument, a flowing legato that virtually eliminates bar-lines, and perhaps most notably an infinite range of dynamics. Moravec produces more shades between mp and pp than almost any pianist in my experience, except perhaps for his idol Michelangeli. And at the other end of the dynamic spectrum he manages a variety of forte and fortissimo colors that never turn harsh.
Moravec also shapes each one of these 19 gems perfectly?building to the climax at precisely the right point. Time after time, one catches one?s breath at a particularly felicitous turn of phrase or a perfectly balanced voicing, or a remarkably original (but in no way fussy) tempo adjustment. Most often, though, it is the complete mastery of dynamics that makes one wonder how it is that this one pianist finds shadings that seem beyond virtually everyone else. This is playing that draws the listener deeply into the music?you are not drawn into Moravec?s achievement, but Chopin?s. The music flows with such an utterly natural motion that you cannot imagine it going any other way.
These are among the great piano recordings of the 20th century, and the set belongs in any serious collection of keyboard music.
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