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Fiercely self-critical, Moravec’s initial refusal to listen to a 1987 live recital of music he had already recorded in the studios was finally, and – after a determined campaign by both his wife and friends – erased. My stress is on live performances that are more natural and spontaneous, less consciously ‘worked’ than many of his studio discs, however glorious. There were times when Moravec’s tireless and meticulous preparation, often extending over long periods of time, did not always allow a divine spark to leap out. But here, his boldly inflected and individual way with Bach’s Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue captures all of the Fantasia’s improvisatory grandeur with a full and special imaginative scope. The final descent and fade out is of a haunting gravity while the fugue is given with such superb clarity and focus that it makes comparison with other celebrated recordings by Edwin Fisher, Kempff and Brendel irrelevant (as well as suggesting than Glenn Gould’s contempt for this masterpiece was little more than flaunting exhibitionism).

Then there is Moravec’s Mozart Sonata K333: the opening Allegro with ample time for underlying wistfulness and reflection; the Andante with a daringly hushed moment near the close that Moravec would probably have dismissed in the studio, a gesture that haunts the imagination ‘long after it was heard no more’. The final Allegretto graziosois just that, given with a playful virtuosity that is lit, as it were, from within.

The opening Adagio from Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata resonates with a deep- rooted sadness rather than a more decorative alternative; the following Allegretto is a light but never flippant relief. The Finale comes with a powerful but unforced bravura.

In Chopin, Moravec tells us through his selection of Mazurkas that they are part of an ultimate confessional diary. I doubt whether there has been a more committed performance of the F-sharp major Nocturne. The Fourth Ballade (which I recall from Moravec’s Wigmore Hall debut in 1959) is far from self-effacing, while Debussy’s Clair de lune, offered as an encore, is magically reconsidered.

Finely recorded and presented these discs confirms Moravec’s place among the truly great pianists – and indeed among the great musicians of our time. 

BRYCE MORRISON Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Piano International, 2016 - ©Rhinegold Publishing