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Chopin: The Complete Works, Vol. 10 - Knights And Demons / Hobson

Release Date: 03/12/2013 
Label:  Zephyr   Catalog #: 144   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Ian Hobson
Number of Discs: 1 
Length: 1 Hours 18 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

CHOPIN Piano Sonata No. 2. Polonaises, Op. 40/1 and 2. Impromptu No. 2 in F#, Op. 36. 24 Preludes, Op. 28 Ian Hobson (pn) ZEPHYR 144 (77:53)

Ian Hobson’s excellent Chopin series continues apace. This is Vol. 10, which bears the title Knights Read more and Demons, and includes the “Funeral March” Sonata, the complete op. 28 Preludes, one Impromptu and two Polonaise s. Hobson’s decision to group Chopin’s output in chronological order is actually more fascinating than one might think, giving one pause to consider the interior workings of the composer’s mind in each period rather than forcing him into an artificial “timeline” of political and social events surrounding him. No doubt about it, Chopin’s trip to Majorca with its damp, clammy weather, lack of proper heating, and the dismal state of medicine at the time all contributed to his contracting colds, possibly pneumonia, and eventually the tuberculosis that killed him, but in the scheme of things this only affected his mental state and thus the dark qualities that entered his music. And throughout his playing, despite a very modern approach which plays down rubato and features of plasticity, Hobson is nonetheless so fully engaged in the performance and re-creation process that, in its own way, his approach is just as valid as the more romantic style of Raoul Koczalski. Just listen, for instance, to the way he plays the famous funeral march: This has just as much feeling, alternation of gloom and lightness, and sepulchral tone as Alfred Cortot’s superb recording from many decades ago. Hobson may not give you the full measure of Chopin’s rubato and rallentandos, but he gives you the essence of each and every piece he plays, and that is good enough for me.

I should point out that whoever produced this CD got the sequence of pieces wrong on both the CD insert and booklet. The C-Minor Polonaise No. 2—accidentally numbered as 1—actually precedes the real No. 1. Hobson plays the second of these with great sensitivity, and oddly enough begins the famed “military” polonaise in measured steps, not as dramatically as some pianists, which gives the music a better feeling of structure and de-emphasizes the flashy components. (In the notes, Hobson calls it “straightforward, orchestrally imaged…evocative of cantering cavalry and heavy gun-carriages,” and that is his approach here.) His playing of the Impromptu is equally measured in pace and phrasing, though here Hobson injects a more tragic feeling into the middle section which works very well.

The op. 28 Preludes, variously described by Schumann, Liszt, and Anton Rubinstein as being among the greatest compositions that Chopin left us, are treated individually as suits their nature. I noted while listening that absolutely none of his playing in any of these preludes could be called “flashy”: On the contrary, it is obvious that he carefully considered the feeling and nature of each one, relying on his instincts as regards their keys and the way the modulations occur. In fact, one may say, with some justification, that this is the very essence of Chopin’s piano writing: Harmony always leads melody, never vice-versa, and melody always leads counterpoint. Hobson “gets” this, and so his performances always have a feeling of rightness about them, even at those moments where a more “poetic” pianist might linger. Hobson doesn’t need to “linger” because all the feeling is in each note anyway. No detail escapes his notice, or his keen insight. In Hobson’s hands, every piece has meaning and each prelude is slightly different from those preceding and following it.

Perhaps I’m overstating the case, but when this series is completed I believe it will put Hobson’s name down in history as one of the greatest Chopin interpreters of all time, and this series as the one of choice for those who wish to own all of the composer’s music played by one musician. Everything he plays has meaning, which in turn elevates the music to a plane that is, quite frankly, above critical analysis. It’s Urtext Chopin, the composer as he appears on the pages of his music, played by someone who really understands him. Five stars, easily.

FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

Sonata for Piano no 2 in B flat minor, B 128/Op. 35 "Funeral March" by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Ian Hobson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1837-1839; Paris, France 
Polonaises (2) for Piano, Op. 40: no 1 in A major, B 120 "Military" by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Ian Hobson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1838; Poland 
Impromptu for Piano no 2 in F sharp major, B 129/Op. 36 by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Ian Hobson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1839; Paris, France 
Preludes (24) for Piano, Op. 28 by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Ian Hobson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1836-1839; Paris, France 
Polonaises (2) for Piano, Op. 40: no 2 in C minor, B 121 by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Ian Hobson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1839; Paris, France 

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