Alfred Cortot – The Late Recordings, Vol. 3 – Chopin & Mendelssohn
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A unique synthesis of extended ternary form, sonata form and fantasy, the Barcarolle is separated from its sentimental archetype by an unbridgeable gulf. And the gulf is widened and deepened by some of Chopin’s most sophisticated harmonies, including lengthy chromatic modulations that are seemingly without a clear tonal goal, and a use of dissonance that extends well beyond classical norms. At the same time—and this makes the work all the more powerful—the composer retains the principal outward features of the popular genre: the 12/8 metre, the moderate tempo, the measured, ostinato-like, rocking accompaniment and the cantilena melodic line led in double notes (mostly thirds and sixths). It is worth noting that these generic features do appear in several earlier works by Chopin, including all four Ballades and above all the G major Nocturne Op 37 No 2, really a barcarolle in disguise. But in the end Op 60 stands as a solitary masterpiece, carrying the gentle swaying lyricism of the vernacular genre through to the powerfully climactic perorations of its final stages.
from notes by Jim Samson © 2009