2015 marks a half century since the late Ivan Moravec recorded Chopin’s Nocturnes for Connoisseur Society to great acclaim. Nonesuch reissued the cycle in 1991, as did Supraphon in 2012. Supraphon’s remastering reveals ever-so-slightly less tape hiss than the Nonesuch version, and is a bit brighter in the piano’s upper register, yet the differences are so marginal that, frankly, it doesn’t matter. What matters is Moravec’s spellbinding artistry.
His inflections of phrase and tempo modifications always are proportioned and purposeful. Listen, for example, to the dramatic, almost heart-stopping strettos leading up to the pauses in Op. 32 No. 1’s melodic line (here Moravec, like Rubinstein, somewhat perversely opts for theRead more final chord resolving to B major, rather than the Urtext’s B minor). In the popular F-sharp Nocturne Op. 15 No. 2, Moravec balances the elaborate fioritura passages against more-prominent-than-usual bass lines, and finds uncommon urgency in the often sentimentalized E-flat Op. 9 No. 2.
Op. 27 No. 1 is often interpreted like vague impressionism. Moravec, however, takes the trouble to clarify the murky left-hand accompanying triplet figurations, and propels the central section forward by emphasizing the bass. The B major Op. 9 No. 3’s chromatic melodic dips float over the accompaniment as if two separate pianists on separate instruments were in cahoots. Then there is the stormy intensity of Op. 55 No. 1’s central episode, Op. 55 No. 2’s thoughtfully chiseled polyphony, and Op. 62 No. 1’s long, rapturously murmuring trills. The sonics are a wee bit boxy, and you can hear Moravec’s feet prominently operating the pedals, yet the pianist’s cultivated sonority comes through with no qualification.
Supraphon’s annotations include a wonderful interview where the pianist offers vivid recollections about the recording sessions. As with Rubinstein, Moravec gives us the Nocturnes with opus numbers, leaving out two posthumously-published pieces: the C-sharp minor Nocturne that remains inexplicably popular as an encore, and a lesser known C minor Nocturne. If you don’t own Moravec’s peerless Nocturne cycle, your Chopin collection is incomplete.
Ultimate Desert Island RecordingOctober 24, 2017By T. Moffatt See All My Reviews"In 1979 I first heard this recording on LP, and it caught my breath. Incredible, especially as I was riveted around 2 AM, not being able to sleep. In 1991 there was a Nonesuch transfer to DVD, and I loved that - but it had some hiss when played at even a moderate level. Then I purchased this 2012 Supraphon transfer and the performance was breathtaking. There was more presence in the piano sound, and the background tape hiss was nearly inaudible when at high sound levels. As to comparison with other performances, there is none, as far as I am concerned. Ivan Moravec pulls out of this music its very essence and shares it with us. I have two other versions of the Nocturnes, and neither comes close to the Moravic. As a Canadian Classical afficionado, I remember back in the 1980s Bob Kerr (anyone remember organ Thursday?) talking about the original Moravec recording being his own favourite. I have listened to this 2012 Supraphon recording multiple times. Never grow tired of it."Report Abuse
Sublime ChopinJanuary 7, 2015By E. Richert (Cedar Crest, NM)See All My Reviews"This is not only the best recordings of the Nocturnes that I have heard it is perhaps the best Chopin...period. Moravec plays with an incredible command of dynamic and tonal shading without relying on maudlin emotionalism to convey the romantic character of Chopin's music. The overall restraint, although not without bursts of fire where appropriate, enhances the "nocturnal" mood of the pieces. That Moravec also possesses a flawless technique is just icing on the cake. The recording sound/remastering is also very good. I cannot recommend these discs highly enough. It's only a pity that Moravec did not make more recordings."Report Abuse
Moravec from 1965August 7, 2012By Bevan Davies (Kennebunk, ME)See All My Reviews"If one were to purchase a recording of the Chopin Noctures to take to a proverbial desert island, this would have to be it. Originally released by Connoisseur Society, in 1966, it has now been remastered by Supraphon. The engineer for that recording was the renowned Alan Silver, and it shows. Firstly, Moravec was a young man when this recording was made, but there is an incredible depth to his playing that one might expect from a very mature artist. The sound is just as beautiful as any piano recording I know of, with an incredibly ripe, buttery sound in the bass and a superb balance and presence. Highly recommended. Bevan Davies Kennebunk, ME"Report Abuse