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Hyperion Records

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Reclining Female Nude (c1844/5) by Jean-François Millet (1814-1875)
Musée d'Orsay, Paris / Peter Willi / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67706
Recording details: March 2008
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: January 2009
Total duration: 5 minutes 48 seconds

'Though Hamelin has made many fabulous discs, particularly in repertoire of superhuman virtuosity, this is one of his very finest achievements to date' (Gramophone)

'Hamelin's impeccable pianism allows him to make light work of the most demanding passages. The first movement [Third Sonata] is as imposing as you would expect of a player renowned for his staggering virtuosity, but a solid framework also underpins moments of wonderful delicacy. Hamelin builds the Second Sonata just as unerringly, producing a poetic and passionate performance that is finally carried off on a spectral wind … Hyperion's new release adds up to a hugely satisfying Chopin recital' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Hamelin's fabulous, transcendental technique takes all the challenges of the treacherous keyboard writing in its stride … Hamelin's pianissimos have a wonderful purity and definition' (The Guardian)

'In the Op 27 Nocturnes his hesitations are masterly, while the Berceuse, the seductive opening track, shimmers with pensive beauty … an excellent excursion into standard repertoire for this adventurous pianist' (The Times)

'Chopin’s second and third piano sonatas lie at the heart of the Romantic piano literature, and Hamelin, a poet among virtuosos, brings sensibility and a brilliant technique in equal measure to this oft-recorded music … this is the Chopin of a true Romantic, spellbinding at its (considerable) best and superbly recorded' (The Sunday Times)

'This is Chopin playing of a superior kind in which a musician of penetrating intellect is able to observe every detail of these miraculous scores … this is a fine example of supreme technical skill at the service of musical poetry' (Classic FM Magazine)

'Hamelin turns on the nightlight, emphasizing the music's poetry as Chopin's nearly elfin lyricism is the engine behind his music's unearthly beauty. Hamelin inhabits this music utterly, revealing a purely aesthetic ear that is not usually attributed to him. He allows each piece to unfold organically while shaping its broad outlines with a seductive lyrical poetry. Hamelin unfurls Chopin's elegant filigreed lines with ease while never losing the music's inner logic … these are world class Chopin performances' (Audiophile Audition, USA)

'It has been a delight to see Marc-André Hamelin, who long explored the bravura fringes of the piano literature, work his way deeper into the standard repertory. The second volume of his survey of Haydn piano sonatas for Hyperion could just as easily have been listed here. Chopin, meanwhile, offers full scope not only for his bravura impulses (which he indulges lustily) but also for an astonishing lyrical gift that increasingly comes to light. The opening Berceuse in D flat is melting' (The New York Times)

Nocturne in D flat major, Op 27 No 2
composer
1835; published 1836; Lento sostenuto

Other recordings available for download
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Lívia Rév (piano)
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Louis Diémer (piano)
Moriz Rosenthal (piano)
Solomon (piano)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The genre title ‘nocturne’ was fairly commonplace in early nineteenth-century piano music, influenced no doubt by the enhanced cultural status of the night (famous texts by Novalis and Madame de Staël), and also by the growing importance of the salon as a site of pianism. Initially it was applied to a wide diversity of pieces, but in the hands of John Field and Chopin it came to be associated with a pianistic style shaped by vocal imitation, whether of the French romance or the Italian aria. By the time Chopin came to compose his Nocturnes Op 27 in 1835, the genre was already a well-established one, with the archetype of the ‘nocturne sound’—ornamental melody supported by widespread arppeggiations—firmly in place. The Nocturnes of Op 27 broadly conform to this, but they did mark an intriguing change in how Chopin presented this genre to the world. From this point onwards, he published his Nocturnes in contrasted pairs rather than in groups of three, giving greater weight to the individual pieces within an opus but at the same time preserving a sense of their mutual compatibility. Chopin was happy to perform the individual Nocturnes of Op 27 separately (especially the second, which he played in Paris, England and Scotland), but he conceived them as perfectly complementary, with the darkly brooding C sharp minor of the first (James Huneker referred to ‘the gloomiest and grandest of Chopin’s moody canvasses’) transformed enharmonically into the consolatory, oneiric D flat major of the second. That these were pieces of exceptional artistic quality was immediately recognized when they were published in 1836, not least by Schumann in the pages of Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, where he described them as exemplifying a ‘new wave’ of piano music.

There are two formal principles underlying a good deal of Chopin’s music, and they are neatly exemplified by the two Nocturnes of Op 27. The C sharp minor relies on contrast. It is an expansive ternary design in which the middle section steps up the tempo and even more the drama, culminating in a brief waltz-like episode (another typical gesture; compare the First Ballade and Second Scherzo). The D flat major, on the other hand, is through-composed and goal-directed, and its construction is immensely subtle. There are two alternating melodies, of which the first is non-repetitive and aria-like, elaborated with an ever more expressive ornamentation, but remaining essentially static, if music can ever be static. The energy and momentum is provided by the second, stanzaic melody, which is developmental in character. Here the ornamentation has a rather different function. It is not so much an expressive enhancement of the melody as a means of driving the music in a dynamic and evolutionary way towards its major tension points; in other words it plays a key structural role in the music. Taken together, the two themes represent Chopin’s ornamental melody at its finest. The opera house was one obvious influence; Mozart another.

from notes by Jim Samson © 2009


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