Notes and Editorial Reviews
Alain Planès. Harmonia Mundi 901721.
The piano that Alain Planès uses here, a 1906 American Steinway grand, is credited with all sorts of marvelous qualities by Jacques Drillon in a typically florid note tucked into the booklet that accompanies the CD. The fact is, it’s an instrument that lacks the weight in the bass and the brilliance at the top that characterize today’s concert Steinways – a Bing Crosby of a piano rather than a Lauritz Melchior, which is fine, because it sounds a lot like the old Steinways I used to practice these pieces on. Its touch is light, and that enables Planès to get around on some of the flashier pieces in the set, like No. 8 in F sharp minor and No. 16 in B flat minor. Still,
his isn’t what you would be tempted to call a virtuoso technique, and if you’re looking for flash and color, you might be better off looking somewhere else, say Pollini, or better yet, Pogorelich.
What Planèes brings to these pieces is an introspective delicacy that is very much in the French tradition. His readings of the individual preludes are thoughtful and tasteful, if not always telling. He does not chain them together (as, for example Garrick Ohlsson does) in order to form a continuous utterance, but sees them as individual entities, and with good reason. For these are the most modern pieces Chopin wrote – aphoristic, even cryptic. In fact, many of them are not pieces at all, but, as the poet Alfred de Vigny might have said, “pearls of thought.” Planès understands that, and communicates it as well as anyone. – Ted Libbey, author of
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