Notes and Editorial Reviews
4 Ballades. Nocturnes: in E?,
Etsuko Hirosé (pn)
MIRARE 110 (68:00)
Etsuko Hirosé is a young Japanese pianist who studied primarily in Paris. Her most prominent teachers were
Bruno Rigutto and Nicholas Angelich. She made the usual round of competitions. Although young, she appears to be a beautifully finished artist. The cover photography for her album features a demure yet pensive woman, and a little of this quality comes across in her playing. She has a big technique with a robust tone, but she never is at pains to show them off. Her touch is quite magical, and her chords are always luminous. She plays with passion and clarity at the same time, always cognizant of where she is in a piece. Hirosé never rushes; her playing is commanding without becoming frenetic. She has chosen to intersperse the four ballades with selected nocturnes, an effective strategy also employed by Nelson Goerner on his recording. I listened to Hirosé’s album three times in a row, and each time new felicities became apparent.
Her playing of the First Ballade is majestic and spacious, with none of the pressure-cooker quality of the famous Horowitz recording. Horowitz is more than a minute faster. Next is the Nocturne, op. 9/2, with a feeling of faded leaves. In the Second Ballade, the A section is childlike in its delicacy and innocence, while the B is stormy. A lover’s daydream comes across through the Nocturne, op. 15/2. The Third Ballade develops conversationally, with twists in the subject matter and a rise and fall to its rhetoric. An unaffected sense of romance suffuses the Nocturne, op. 15/1. Hirosé approaches the challenging Fourth Ballade with a firm sense of its structure. She plays it with a feeling for its emotional content and tone color that is kaleidoscopic. The Nocturne, op. 48/1, offers a very stern approach, with a big sound. Hirosé appropriately ends her recital with a passionate account of the
. She begins it rather matter-of-factly, in contrast to the strong emotion that arises later.
This album was recorded in a hall in the Limousin countryside, and the sound engineering is rich and resonant. I recently reviewed CDs of the ballades by Kevin Kenner and, on a period instrument, Nelson Goerner. Both are commanding interpretations. I have not heard ArkivMusic’s CD release of Gary Graffman’s classic recording, which I have on LP. While Etsuko Hirosé’s performance does not displace any of these renditions in my affections, her disc definitely is a winning accomplishment and offers much food for thought on its own terms. I don’t think anyone adding Hirosé’s album to their collection will be disappointed. She definitely is an artist I want to hear more of. Her Chopin is the work of a pianist with taste, technique, power, and perceptiveness.
FANFARE: Dave Saemann
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