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Godowsky began writing his famous series of studies on Chopin’s Etudes in the early 1890s. By 1914, a total of 53 had been published. Twenty-two were for the left hand alone and can be said to have revolutionised piano writing for a single hand. All 53 present formidable challenges to anyone brave enough to take them on, but the left hand studies are particularly demanding with their ingenious polyphony, counterpoint and fingerings bristling with difficulties not always obvious to an audience.

Moreover, while any performance of single hand music must convince the listener that two hands are playing, the visual delight of seeing it achieved is absent on a disc; also, even Godowsky’s transformations of Chopin’s fieriest originals tend to be reflective and introspective, lending a uniformity of expression to proceedings – one not envisaged by Godowsky who, of course, did not intend them to be played as an intègrale.

Despite all this, the American pianist Ivan Ilić almost achieves the impossible. Presented in an order of his own devising and beautifully recorded, these studies emerge in his hands as immaculately crafted jewels on which he has lavished care and obvious affection. Though there is undoubted novelty value in hearing such gems as the ‘Revolutionary’ played a semitone up and by one hand, the experience is as musically rewarding as it is intriguing. I salute Ilić’s playing and ambition. He clearly loves this music, describing in his booklet essay how playing Godowsky’s studies is ‘the closest that I have come to experiencing ecstasy’.

JEREMY NICHOLAS Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Piano International, 2012 - ©Rhinegold Publishing