Notes and Editorial Reviews
Previous recordings by French pianist Alain Planès have been praised in these pages: He has recorded Debussy, Schubert, Janá?ek, and Chabrier, a mixed group that suggests the pianist's range of expression. Here he plays Chopin on an exquisitely warm and yet evidently delicate American Steinway manufactured in 1906. Jacques Drillon describes the instrument as different from a modern Steinway mainly in the shape of the key cheeks. He continues: "The keyboard is unusually light; it is thus both more agreeable to [the] touch and more delicate, requiring of the pianist a finer control of his touch, guarding against unforeseen caprices of the instrument. . . It is not a virile piano."
Virile or not, this
piano sounds solid, if less absolutely electric than a modern instrument. The sound of the piano is a plus in this recording. Of course, it is Planès's playing that matters most. It can be thrilling, as in the Prelude No. 16 in B? Minor, the furious little work that demands expressiveness and speed and the ability, which Planès clearly has, to keep the melodic as well as the rhythmic flow going. It's a talent he demonstrates almost everywhere. The exceptions include an unaccountably lackadaisical Prelude in B?. The extreme variations in volume to which he subjects this piece doesn't make up for a tempo that sounds too slow, and a curious lack of tension. I hear something similar in the beginning of the Berceuse.
I call that fault unaccountable because it is rare in Planès's playing. Although I have heard brighter, more dramatic accounts of the four Mazurkas included here, Planès makes the most of a generally relaxed, if not overly delicate, approach. His sound is ravishing, his playing appealing. This is a superior, if not definitive, Chopin offering.
-- Michael Ullman, Fanfare
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