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Chopin Recital / Ingolf Wunder

Release Date: 09/13/2011 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 001571202  
Composer:  Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Ingolf Wunder
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

CHOPIN Piano Sonata No. 3. Polonaise-Fantaisie. Ballade No. 4. Andante spianato et Grande Polonaise brillante Ingolf Wunder (pn) DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 477 9634 (68:09)

Deutsche Grammophon, in its neverending pursuit of pretty young things who play Chopin, has given us its share of clinkers lately. There’s a halfway decent disc of the concertos by Rafa? Blechacz, and a thoroughly mediocre version of the “Funeral Read more March” Sonata from Yuja Wang. Now we have the debut of the Austrian pianist Ingolf Wunder, and I must say things are looking up for DG. Wunder placed second in the 2010 International Chopin Competition in Warsaw, which many listeners think he should have won. His interpretations are individual and imaginative, two words that strike fear into any competition judge’s heart. Wunder feels closest among Chopin pianists to Artur Rubinstein, and there are similarities between the two in beauty of tone and a preference (at least in late Rubinstein) for leisurely tempos. Wunder’s technique, though, is stronger than Rubinstein’s. He studied with the great Chopin pianist Adam Harasiewicz, although he sounds nothing like him. The readings on this disc do not rank among my favorites, but they are consistently thoughtful and engaging. Ingolf Wunder is a definite talent.

The Third Sonata’s opening movement moves slowly yet very expressively, with great flexibility of tempo. Here, maestoso is as much a sensibility as a tempo indication. The second subject is chaste and tender, like old bone china. The Scherzo is beautifully articulated, its B section sounding like a romance. The first subject of the Largo has a sort of Chinese inscrutability. The second subject recounts an ancient story, as old as time. This movement ends with a question instead of a resolution. The finale offers an amalgamation of beautiful sounds, a hedonist’s delight rather that a drama. Wunder exhibits here a lofty virtuosity, a kind of high-calorie Chopin. Definitely, this is a distinctive version of the sonata.

Wunder gives the Polonaise-Fantaisie the dark background of late Rembrandt, set off against deep browns and golds. As in Rembrandt, we have in this work a self-portrait of the artist, with melancholy unease balanced against snatches of epic themes. The work’s conclusion, in Wunder’s hands, is tragic rather than triumphant. Another late work, the Fourth Ballade, starts like sunlight seen through crystal, with isolated shafts of light illuminating different parts of the argument. As in a Keats ode, there are many layers of allusion instead of one plot line. Eventually, assorted meanings cascade and tumble forward. In the Andante spianato et Grande Polonaise brillante , Wunder presents an aristocratic reading, concentrating on beauty of tone. The polonaise has stateliness and nobility. There is excitement in the masses of sound Wunder generates. Thus concludes a highly satisfying program.

The sound engineering is warm and full, complementing the intrinsic qualities of Wunder’s tone. We are given no program notes on the music, rather an interview with the artist and the now obligatory photo gallery. For a recital that is so old-school, this seems a little shabby. My preferred recordings of the sonata are by Cécile Ousset and Nelson Goerner on DVD. I like Rubinstein in the Polonaise-Fantaisie , Ousset and Davidovich in the ballade, and Yundi for the Andante spianato . Nevertheless, I would recommend Wunder’s recital to anyone looking for a novel and illuminating view of Chopin’s genius. I suspect we will be hearing more from this young man.

FANFARE: Dave Saemann
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Works on This Recording

Sonata for Piano no 3 in B minor, B 155/Op. 58 by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Ingolf Wunder (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1844; Paris, France 
Polonaise-fantaisie for Piano in A flat major, B 159/Op. 61 by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Ingolf Wunder (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1845-1846; Poland 
Ballade for Piano no 4 in F minor, B 146/Op. 52 by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Ingolf Wunder (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1842; Paris, France 
Andante spianato et Grand polonaise brillante in E flat major, Op. 22 by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Ingolf Wunder (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1830-1831; Vienna, Austria 

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