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Norman Lebrecht’s Album of the Week – Chopin, Dutilleux

By (June 19, 2013) No Comment

Chopin, Dutilleux: Preludes
Champs Hill

champshillrecordschrcd061An intriguing concept by the rising Romanian pianist, Alexandra Dariescu, this is the first of three releases to contain the complete preludes of different composers – in this instance Frederic Chopin and Henri Dutilleux. It is also the first Dutilleux recording to appear since his death last month in Paris, aged 97.

The two composers, separated by a century and more, are joined by a city and its culture. Both regarded the conquest of Paris as the summit of their dreams. Both conceived sounds of rare refinement.

There is short measure here in Dutilleux – only three preludes against Chopin’s 26. Each of the three, however, is a perfect gem, none more so than the playful and perplexing Jeu de Contraires (Game of Opposites), which Dariescu opens up, alyer by layer, like a Russian doll.

In Chopin, her playing is never less than pleasing, if seldom revelatory. What is outstanding here is the piano sound at Champs Hill, along with Vladimir Mojico’s rainswept record cover, a quirky, modern take on Renoir’s Les Parapluies. Nice, when a small label still cares for appearances.

Three pianists

Frederic Mompou
Sony

Arcadi Volodos shot out of Russia around the same time as Evgeny Kissin, but settled in Spain and has travelled less. His first album in quite a while focuses on the contemplative Spanish composer Mompou. It’s mood music with filmic atmosphere but the attention flags before the disc stops.

Handel: suites for keyboard
Sony

Daria van den Bercken rides round Amsterdam on her bike inviting people to her home for tea and Handel. Her debut disc is full of flair and passion, beautifully recorded. The bonus is a little-known Mozart tribute to Handel.

Russian album
Sony

Olga Scheps, a young Russian in Paris, plays drawing-room miniatures that reveal great skill and little taste. You reach the 11th track before you hear what she can do with Scriabin and Rachmaninov – and it’s not negligible.

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Norman Lebrecht is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and other publications. He has written 12 books about music, the most recent being Why Mahler? He hosts the blog Slipped Disc.