Chopin / Hobson Release Date: 02/14/2012
Label:ZephyrCatalog #: 13710
Spars Code: DDD Composer: Frédéric Chopin Performer: Ian Hobson Number of Discs: 1
Recorded in: Stereo
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CHOPIN Rondo in E?, op. 16. Mazurkas: in B?, B73; in C, B82; op. 17. Bolero in a. Waltz in G?, op. 70/1. Variations on Hérold’s “Je vends des scapulaires.” Grande valse brillante in E?. Scherzo No. 1. Andante spianato & Grande polonaise brillante • Ian Hobson (pn) • Read more ZEPHYR 137-10 (75:00)
This CD is marked Vol. 6 of the complete works of Chopin and given the title High Society. Unfortunately, I have missed the first five volumes of this series, but if the high quality of these performances is any indication, Ian Hobson may be the one pianist of our time who can do justice to the entire oeuvre of this great composer. I say “may” because I haven’t heard the other waltzes or scherzos, any of the nocturnes or etudes, or the otherworldly Barcarolle.
Hobson is, apparently, recording these works in chronological order rather than grouping them in their usual manner (all of the waltzes, all the scherzos, all the mazurkas, etc.). This makes for very interesting, if somewhat fragmented, listening. Hobson takes a completely unique approach to Chopin, combining in equal measure the strict tempo proclivities of our modern era which began with Dinu Lipatti’s performances, the poetry of such older pianists as Cherkassky and Cortot, and some of the visceral excitement of the super-virtuosos Horowitz, Cziffra, and Argerich. The result is as fascinating and riveting a take on Chopin as I’ve ever heard. As when listening to Lipatti’s Chopin, there is something about it that sucks you in and refuses to let you go. It’s a style of performance that seems closer to how one would play Mendelssohn or mid-period Beethoven, and yet it works. No, this doesn’t mean that I’m jettisoning my Cortot, Lipatti, or Rubinstein recordings, only that Hobson’s disc has a place beside them.
The liner notes by famed Chopin scholar Ate? Orga are as fascinating as the performances. How many of you knew that Chopin loved Paris as much for its seediness as for its grandeur? That he described it in letters to friends as “whatever you choose: you can amuse yourself, be bored, laugh, cry, do anything you like, and nobody looks at you,” that it was a city of “the greatest splendor, the greatest shabbiness, the greatest virtue, the greatest vice,” with “young working women who are coquettish and flirtatious” everywhere, along with “posters warning of venereal disease”? I sure didn’t. The title High Society refers to this specific period of the early 1830s, when Chopin was introducing both his playing and his compositions to the upper classes of Paris. The letters also reveal how enraptured he was with the playing of Friedrich Kalkbrenner, the pianist he considered superior to Liszt or Herz. But here is yet another revealing passage that those who favor dreamy Chopin performances may not know: “I confess I have played like Herz, but would wish to play like Kalkbrenner.” This is a sterling disc of Chopin, alternately tender and bracing. Hobson captures the full measure of his music and plays a clean, lean instrument that probably would not have been out of place in the composer’s lifetime.