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Chopin: Piano Music / Leon Mccawley

Chopin / Mccawley
Release Date: 10/11/2011 
Label:  Somm   Catalog #: 103   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Leon McCawley
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 10 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



CHOPIN Waltz in D?, op. 64/1, “Minute.” Ecossaisses, op. 72/3–5. Mazurkas, op. 6; op. 17. Impromptus: in A?, op. 29; in F?, op. 36; in G?, op. 51. Fantasy-Impromptu. Nocturnes, op. 27. Read more class="ARIAL12b">Fantasy Leon McCawley (pn) SOMM 0103 (70:27)


Chopin pianists come in all shapes and sizes. One variety of Chopin player takes the composer’s romanticism as a cue for self-expression. Martha Argerich epitomizes this type. In a performance by her, one cannot tell where Frédéric ends and Martha begins, so completely developed is the music’s emotional content. This is something of a high-wire act, and doubtless is very exciting. Leon McCawley is a different kind of Chopin pianist from Argerich. He plays in a way that is slightly detached from the music’s emotional turbulence. Not that he doesn’t identify with the ethos of the composer; far from it. Nevertheless, one continually is aware that the spirit of Chopin is being reflected through the lens of McCawley’s pianistic sensibility. Always one feels that the piano’s beautiful control and sound are things that entirely belong to Leon McCawley. It is a kind of artistic self-possession, within which one can encounter Chopin’s deepest truths through the medium of the pianist’s art. I don’t feel that the comparison between Argerich and McCawley is a distinction without a difference. Rather, I believe that McCawley’s personality in these performances is something readily definable, apart from what he tells us about the composer.


Much of McCawley’s recital is given over to Chopin’s dance forms, which benefit from the pianist’s subtle yet intricate rhythmic sense. The program begins with a deft “Minute” Waltz that is neither coy nor cute. The three ecossaisses have a marvelous spring to their step. Of the op. 6 mazurkas, the first is tactful and straightforward, not unlike Alexander Brailowsky’s approach. The second sounds almost like a tarantella. No. 3 evokes a lively country fair, appropriately as it is the only one of the set in a major key. When McCawley comes to the mazurkas of op. 17, his take on the first one is triumphant and self-assured. No. 2 sounds tender yet ominous. McCawley captures the emotionally elusive quality of No. 3. The fourth and last of these mazurkas, in the artist’s direct and unaffected way, constitutes one of the most moving performances on this CD, almost evaporating at the end.


Perhaps the high points of this recital are the impromptus, which come smack in the middle of the program. McCawley employs more rubato in them than in the dances, quite successfully; this perhaps reflects Schubert’s impromptus’ influence on Chopin. No. 1 features especially delicate passagework, with finely shaded dynamics. In No. 2, McCawley’s playing is alternately relaxed and majestic. There is an especially Schubertian feel to the elegantly played No. 3, particularly in the melody for the left hand. The Fantasy-Impromptu opens with brio, then relaxes into the second subject. The return of the A section takes on a kaleidoscopic texture. McCawley’s set of the impromptus ranks with my favorite versions, which include those of Marta Deyanova, Howard Shelley, and Nikita Magaloff’s monaural rendition on Decca. Of the two op. 27 nocturnes, No. 1 emits a dark, almost dusty luminosity. Its companion is tender yet ominous.


McCawley’s recital ends with an unsentimental version of the Fantasy. Structurally, it is held together by quick, steady tempos and angular rhythms. From the passagework, one can tell that McCawley takes the influence of Schubert’s Wanderer Fantasy very seriously. One of my favorite recordings of the Fantasy, Daniel Barenboim’s, is freer and more romantic, but McCawley’s certainly has its points. The recording engineer is Ben Connellan, familiar from so many fine Chandos and Hyperion CDs. He provides sound that is highly realistic, with just a touch of congestion occasionally in forte passages. If you are looking for a collection of Chopin’s shorter pieces, you really can’t do much better than McCawley’s recital. Unless you must have a pianist who wears his heart on his sleeve in Chopin, McCawley’s artistry should wear well.


FANFARE: Dave Saemann
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Works on This Recording

1.
Waltzes (3) for Piano, B 164/Op. 64: no 1 in D flat major "Minute Waltz" by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Leon McCawley (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1846-1847; Paris, France 
Venue:  Champs Hill, Pulborough, West Sussex 
Length: 1 Minutes 43 Secs. 
2.
Ecossaises (3) for Piano, B 12/Op. 72 no 3 by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Leon McCawley (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1826; Poland 
Venue:  Champs Hill, Pulborough, West Sussex 
Length: 1 Minutes 46 Secs. 
3.
Mazurkas (4) for Piano, B 60/Op. 6 by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Leon McCawley (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1830; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  Champs Hill, Pulborough, West Sussex 
Length: 8 Minutes 32 Secs. 
4.
Impromptu for Piano no 1 in A flat major, B 110/Op. 29 by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Leon McCawley (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1837; Paris, France 
Venue:  Champs Hill, Pulborough, West Sussex 
Length: 3 Minutes 54 Secs. 
5.
Impromptu for Piano no 2 in F sharp major, B 129/Op. 36 by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Leon McCawley (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1839; Paris, France 
Venue:  Champs Hill, Pulborough, West Sussex 
Length: 5 Minutes 45 Secs. 
6.
Impromptu for Piano no 3 in G flat major, b 149/Op. 51 by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Leon McCawley (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1842; Paris, France 
Venue:  Champs Hill, Pulborough, West Sussex 
Length: 5 Minutes 10 Secs. 
7.
Impromptu for Piano no 4 in C sharp minor, B 87/Op. 66 "Fantaisie-Impromptu" by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Leon McCawley (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1835; Paris, France 
Venue:  Champs Hill, Pulborough, West Sussex 
Length: 5 Minutes 5 Secs. 
8.
Nocturnes (2) for Piano, Op. 27 by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Leon McCawley (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1835; Paris, France 
Venue:  Champs Hill, Pulborough, West Sussex 
Length: 10 Minutes 51 Secs. 
9.
Mazurkas (4) for Piano, B 77/Op. 17 by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Leon McCawley (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1832-1833; Paris, France 
Venue:  Champs Hill, Pulborough, West Sussex 
Length: 14 Minutes 9 Secs. 
10.
Fantasie for Piano in F minor/A flat major, B 137/Op. 49 by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Leon McCawley (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1841; Paris, France 
Venue:  Champs Hill, Pulborough, West Sussex 
Length: 12 Minutes 1 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Waltz No. 6 in D-Flat Major, Op. 64, No. 1, "Minute"
3 Ecoissaises, Op. 72, No. 3: No. 1 in D Major
3 Ecoissaises, Op. 72, No. 3: No. 2 in G Minor
3 Ecoissaises, Op. 72, No. 3: No. 3 in D-Flat Major
Mazurka No. 1 in F-Sharp Minor, Op. 6, No. 1
Mazurka No. 2 in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 6, No. 2
Mazurka No. 3 in E Major, Op. 6, No. 3
Mazurka No. 4 in E-Flat Minor, Op. 6, No. 4
Impromptu No. 1 in A-Flat Major, Op. 29
Impromptu No. 2 in F-Sharp Major, Op. 36
Impromptu No. 3 in G-Flat Major, Op. 51
Fantasy-Impromptu in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 66
Nocturne No. 7 in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 27, No. 1
Nocturne No. 8 in D-Flat Major, Op. 27, No. 2
Mazurka No. 10 in B-Flat Major, Op. 17, No. 1
Mazurka No. 11 in E Minor, Op. 17, No. 2
Mazurka No. 12 in A-Flat Major, Op. 17, No. 3
Mazurka No. 13 in A Minor, Op. 17, No. 4
Fantasy in F Minor, Op. 49

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