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In his booklet essay for this, his eighth release for BIS in less than seven years, Yevgeny Sudbin observes that, in Chopin, ‘The notes as they stand have such an incredible power that imposing yourself can often diminish the piece’s expressive impact.’ In fact, some of this disc leaves me wishing he had got in the way of the score a little more.

The first part of the Fantasy in F minor, Op 49 – that dark, slightly uncertain march – is taken too much at note value. It surely needs a storyteller’s imagination – and in the march’s melodic continuation, the accompaniment’s tread tends towards the prosaic. But Sudbin seizes on the work’s formal fantasy and clearly identifies it as big-boned Chopin, evincing the turbulent expression that dictates. The same goes for the Ballade No 4, where his technical command is eyebrow-raising, though never for its own sake.

The Nocturne in C sharp minor, Op 27 No 1, loses some of the crepuscular atmosphere of its opening, the rotating left-hand figure appearing too literal, though the rustic dance of its third section – clean, crisp and spirited – points in part to what makes Sudbin’s playing of the five Mazurkas included here so successful.

Overall, those who crave spontaneity and introspection in Chopin may find these readings too disciplined: there’s little intention that the piano should reveal the player’s innermost sentiments.

Sudbin’s parting shot is his own richly decorated paraphrase on the ‘Minute’ Waltz, such as might be heard at a surreal cocktail party boasting Liszt, Rachmaninov and Godowsky performing side by side at the piano.

EDWARD BHESANIA Read the full review on Agora Classica


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