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Track(s) taken from CDS44351/66

Berceuse in D flat major, Op 57

1843; originally entitled Variantes; published in 1845; dedicated to Mme Elise Gavard

Garrick Ohlsson (piano)
Recording details: January 1995
Performing Arts Center, Purchase College, State University of New York, USA
Produced by Adam Abeshouse
Engineered by Adam Abeshouse
Release date: November 2008
Total duration: 5 minutes 57 seconds

Cover artwork: Frédéric Chopin in concert at the Hotel Lambert, Paris (1840) by Antar Teofil Kwiatowski (1809-1891)
Bibliothèque Polonaise, Paris / Archives Charmet / Bridgeman Art Library, London

Other recordings available for download

Marc-André Hamelin (piano)
Stephen Hough (piano)
Lívia Rév (piano)
Nikolai Demidenko (piano)
Emmanuel Despax (piano)


'Hyperion's big deal … Ohlsson is a powerful and committed player, and is afforded very good sound by the engineers … this is almost certainly how these pieces were played in Chopin's time' (The Mail on Sunday)

'This is an oustanding achievement, which any genuine Chopin lover and student of Romantic music should own … a landmark in the recording of Chopin's music … Garrick Ohlsson and Hyperion deserve the greatest success in bringing this important undertaking to such a consistently impressive conclusion' (International Record Review)

'An attractively priced box set … Ohlsson is in a class of his own' (Pianist)

'The collaborative works receive particularly rewarding performances … Ohlsson arguably offers more consistent artistry than Biret, Ashkenazy, Magaloff, and Harasiewicz' (Classics Today)

'Garrick Ohlsson’s complete survey of everything Chopin wrote for piano (including chamber music, songs, and for piano and orchestra) will delight the completist and the Chopin connoisseur. Ohlsson (who won the Chopin International Piano Competition in 1970) gives us accounts of this wondrous repertoire in weighty and commanding style, aristocratic and impulsive (but not lacking light and shade or contemplative contrasts) and, at times, very sensitive and searching. These vivid recordings were made in the second half of the 1990s and have previously appeared on the Arabesque label. They now sit very well in Hyperion’s catalogue' (Classical Source)
A few months before he completed the B minor Sonata, Chopin put the finishing touches to his Berceuse Op 57. The original title was Variantes, and this describes its final form rather well: a set of sixteen short variations on an ostinato ground (there is a sketch of the work that lays this structure out rather graphically, even numbering the ‘variantes’). Another interesting detail here is that Chopin originally intended to plunge straight into the melody, and only added the two-bar genre-defining introduction at a late stage, quite possibly at the moment he changed the title from Variantes to Berceuse. In some ways the work functions rather like a set of baroque ‘divisions’, but this scarcely does justice to the highly original treatment of the ornamental line. The key point is that the curve of complexity (ever more rapid filigree) remains divorced not just from the underlying harmonic progression (a simple repeating cycle) but also from the dynamic shape (a stable level, remaining in low dynamics throughout). What is original here is that the shape of the music—its sense of departure and return—is created almost entirely through texture and sonority. It is not hard to see why Debussy was so interested in the music of Chopin.

from notes by Jim Samson © 2009

Quelques mois avant d’achever sa Sonate en si mineur, Chopin mit la dernière main à sa Berceuse op. 57, dont le titre original (Variantes) donnait une assez bonne idée de sa forme définitive: un corpus de seize courtes variations sur une basse en ostinato (une esquisse dispose cette structure d’une manière assez graphique, allant jusqu’à numéroter les «variantes»). Autre détail intéressant, Chopin entendait initialement plonger droit dans la mélodie et ce fut tardivement, sans doute au moment du changement de titre, qu’il ajouta les deux mesures introductives définissant le genre. À certains égards, l’œuvre fonctionne un peu comme une série de «divisions» baroques, mais cette comparaison ne rend guère justice au traitement fort original de la ligne ornementale: la courbe de complexité (un filigrane toujours plus rapide) reste coupée non seulement de la progression harmonique sous-jacente (un simple cycle périodique), mais de la forme dynamique (un niveau stable, toujours dans les graves). L’originalité ici, c’est que la forme de la musique—l’impression de départ et de retour qu’elle donne—vient presque exclusivement de la texture et de la sonorité. On voit bien pourquoi Debussy s’intéressa tant à la musique de Chopin.

extrait des notes rédigées par Jim Samson © 2009
Français: Hypérion

Wenige Monate bevor er die h-Moll Sonate fertigstellte, beendete Chopin seine Berceuse op. 57. Der ursprüngliche Titel des Werks lautete Variantes, was auch die endgültige Form passend charakterisieren würde: es handelt sich um einen Zyklus von 16 kurzen Variationen über einen Ostinato-Bass (es ist eine Skizze des Werks überliefert, in der die Struktur deutlich angegeben ist und wo die „Variantes“ sogar durchnummeriert sind). Ein weiteres interessantes Detail hierbei ist, dass Chopin ursprünglich direkt in die Melodie eintauchen wollte, und erst später die zweitaktige, genreverleihende Einleitung anfügte, möglicherweise geschah das zum selben Zeitpunkt, als er auch den Titel von Variantes zu Berceuse änderte. In mancherlei Hinsicht ist dieses Werk mit barocken Figurationen vergleichbar, doch wird das der hochoriginellen Behandlung der verzierten Linie kaum gerecht. Das entscheidende Charakteristikum ist, dass die Komplexitätskurve (immer schneller und filigraner) nicht nur von dem darunter liegenden harmonischen Fortschreiten (ein schlichter, sich wiederholender Zyklus) sondern auch von der dynamischen Gestalt (ein stabiler Pegel, der durchweg niedrig bleibt) völlig getrennt bleibt. Was hierbei so originell ist, ist, dass die Gestalt der Musik—der Eindruck von Aufbruch und Rückkehr—fast ausschließlich durch Struktur und Klang erzeugt wird. Es ist nicht schwer nachzuvollziehen, warum Debussy sich so für die Musik Chopins interessierte.

aus dem Begleittext von Jim Samson © 2009
Deutsch: Viola Scheffel

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