Notes and Editorial Reviews
Etudes: in f,
Nocturnes: in f,
Waltzes: in a,
Mazurkas: in a,
Preludes: in b,
Vardo Rumessen (pn)
ESTONIAN CLASSICS 4211 (72:05)
Vardo Rumessen is known primarily as an exponent of Estonian piano music. However, musicians with intriguing artistic profiles tend to have something to say about a broad range of music, and that certainly is true about Rumessen in Chopin. He has titled his collection
; it is a sort of study of the moodier and more reflective side of Chopin’s personality. There are no display pieces here; still, Rumessen has constructed a beautifully arranged program. Conforming to the overall mood, Rumessen’s tempos generally are leisurely. Rumessen, in his lengthy and slightly overblown program notes, mentions that Chopin himself rarely played as loud as
, an effect Rumessen says is hard to achieve on the modern Steinway. Nevertheless, he shades his dynamics softly and very carefully on said instrument, and the effect is something Chopin might have appreciated. Rumessen’s touch is appealingly light. He makes extensive but subtle use of rubato, and his playing always is highly expressive. Half of the selections on the disc are mazurkas, and these are rendered most exquisitely, with the greatest feeling for line and harmony. Rumessen gives us Chopin’s works as that master might have played just for himself, or for a few select friends. This is artistry on a very high level.
The program begins with an etude op. posth. that is heard as if from far away. The Nocturne, op. 55/1, reminds me of a couple seated by a window in a café as twilight descends. In its spectral tonal coloring, the Waltz, op. 34/2, sounds like two skeletons dancing together. In the op. 17/4 Mazurka, one feels a state of apprehension where one almost is afraid to breathe. The Mazurka, op. 68/2, could portray a woman in folk costume doing a very slow, solitary dance; the woman may be known or unknown to the viewer—she seems mysterious. The Nocturne, op. 37/1, evokes the scene of a man alone at night writing a letter to his beloved, who is far away. Chopin’s final mazurka, op. 68/4, is played with a wealth of quiet fantasy. The Waltz, op. 70/2, could depict the great stairway in a manor house. A sorrow too deep for words is contained in the op. 28/6 Prelude. The Waltz, op. 69/2, seems Chaplinesque in its nervous moodiness, while the op. 63/3 Mazurka ends the program with something like a vision of Buster Keaton’s “great stone face.”
The sound engineering is excellent, while the program booklet is beautifully illustrated. Vardo Rumessen has just turned 70, so I hope he will continue to make recordings of the standard repertory that document him at the peak of his powers. As a collection of Chopin’s shorter works, this CD ranks with those of Jane Coop and Naum Starkman in my affections. Rumessen’s insight into Chopin’s artistic personality is strikingly individual and valuable. I can’t imagine the Chopin lover who would not take this CD very much to heart.
FANFARE: Dave Saemann
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