Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is the crown so far in Ian Hobson’s ongoing Chopin series. This is possibly the most intelligent, musical, and fascinating version of the etudes I have come across. Each of Chopin’s jewels seems lovingly reinvented. Interpretatively, there is little inherited here. Not for Hobson, then, a rattling off of the first C Major of op. 10. Rather, an organ-like bass underpins sparkling, beautifully shaped right-hand 16th notes. The scamperings of the A Minor find another touch again, the articulation perfectly realized. The E Major becomes a miniature tone poem with surprisingly graphic central storms; the Presto fourth is technically impressive with no tempo concessions, yet still retains the integrity already set up
earlier in the set. We hear the C Major in a new light, too. By not taking it too fast here, Hobson reveals its inner beauty; beauty, again, becomes paramount in the A?, No. 10. The C Minor acts as a fine summit of the set, and stands in high contrast to the opening etude of op. 25.
The A? first etude of op. 25 is beautifully paced and voiced, with its contrapuntal elements emerging as just as important as its sonic beauties. The finger twists of No. 2 (F Minor) are wholly subordinate here to the overall dreamy mood. There are delights in Hobson’s op. 25, too (the F Major), delicacy (the G?-Minor), as well as moments of supreme lyricism (the legato melodies of the central section of the E Minor). Yet, balancing all this is the desolate landscape of the C?-Minor (No. 7), an extended, dark-hued portrait of woe. Interestingly, the effect of this etude seems to stretch over to the central section of the so-called “Octaves” Etude (No. 10). Hobson’s technique makes sparks fly in the penultimate etude, though, the so-called “Winter Wind.” The final etude of this set begins somewhat subdued, creating a threatening soundscape of 16th notes.
Hobson is no less appealing in the Trois Nouvelles Etudes. He seems to move to the very core of the F-Minor’s interior sound world, while in the A? No. 2 it is Chopin’s particular brand of counterpoint that fascinates. The final D? is the perfect way to close the disc, its opposition of staccato and legato magnificently achieved in a tissue-delicate setting.
This is the seventh volume in Hobson’s Chopin cycle. It is titled “A Few Exercises,” a masterpiece in understatement that minimizes Hobson’s huge achievement here. The Chopin etudes are recorded by most of the greatest names in piano history. It is no exaggeration to state that Hobson can be spoken of in the same breath as the likes of Arrau, Cortot, and Pollini. Hobson comes closest in approach to Arrau in his unfailing search for lyricism, his beauty of tone, and his understanding of the very heart of Chopin.
This disc was actually recorded way back in January and May 2004. All credit must go to the engineers, Lech Dudzik and Gabriela Blicharz, for rendering such a truthful piano sound that replicates the myriad nuances of Hobson’s playing. This disc is nothing less than a triumph.
FANFARE: Colin Clarke
Works on This Recording
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