Notes and Editorial Reviews
CHOPIN Ballades. Fantasy. Polonaise-Fantasy • Vladimir Feltsman (pn) • NIMBUS ALLIANCE 6128 (64:13)
"Vladimir Feltsman is an important Chopin pianist. One of the special joys of th[is] album is Feltsman’s marvelously erudite program notes. I find it intimidating as a critic to review an artist who writes about music better than I do. Feltsman’s style in the [ballades] is meticulous and dramatic. The First Ballade receives a beautifully proportioned reading, with a brilliant dénouement. In the Second Ballade, Feltsman alternates between lyric and tragic poetry. His Third Ballade gives us a touchingly rendered narrative, with a B section of high drama. The last ballade comes off as a miniature novel, with lots of
plot twists. Feltsman’s Fantasy is a virtuoso statement of musical architecture. In the Polonaise-Fantasy, Feltsman’s playing is tonally lavish, with an improvisatory feel; his use of pedal here is very telling. The album was recorded in the Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Performing Arts Center at Bard College. I’ve heard Feltsman play the Schumann concerto in concert, and the sound engineering on this disc is a good approximation of what it’s like to hear him live. I would rank Feltsman’s ballades among the best I know, along with Rubinstein, Kissin, Ohlsson, and Graffman.
It’s perhaps worth remembering that the first recording by Feltsman issued on a U.S. label was Chopin’s preludes. He really is a Chopin player to the manner born. His sense of line is infallible, and no detail is so small as to escape his attention. Plus, he has the rare ability to convey an atmosphere, which is essential to a great Chopin style. That Feltsman has made a considerable career playing Bach may not be coincidental, given Chopin’s love for Bach and the subtlety of the Pole’s harmony. What’s more, Feltsman’s love for Chopin absolutely comes across in these recordings. You really can’t fake the excitement and affection that suffuse these readings. Feltsman here matches the greatest Chopin performances preserved in recorded sound. These [recordings] are likely to remain touchstones for decades to come."
FANFARE: Dave Saemann
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