CHOPIN: Sel. of Nocturnes, Mazurkas & Ballades – David Korevaar, p. – MSR

Beautiful playing, but lacking a sense of abandon.

CHOPIN: Nocturne in c, Op. 48, No. 1; Ballade No. 1 in g, Op. 23; Nocturne in E-flat major, Op. 55, No. 2; Ballade No. 3 in A-flat major, Op. 47; Nocturne in D-flat major, Op. 27, No.2; Mazurka in G major, Op. 50, No. 1; Mazurka in A-flat major, Op. 50, No.2; Mazurka in C-sharp minor, Op. 50, No. 3; Barcarolle in F-sharp major, Op. 60; Berceuse in D-flat major, Op. 57; Nocturne in F-sharp major, Op. 15, No. 2; Scherzo No. 4 in E major, Op. 54 – David Korevaar, p. – MSR Classics MS 1626, 76:53 [Distr. by Albany] ***1/2:

David Korevaar has made a number of fine recordings spanning an impressively broad repertory. No one pianist is adept at everything, even among the so-called “greats” of the past. And even within the confines of one composer the results can be quite varied. I am hesitant to call this recording unenjoyable, because in fact I did enjoy it in several sittings. Korevaar, as he has demonstrated many times before, has ample technique, a warm sound—even, daresay, “Chopinesque”—and his interpretations here are obviously well-thought and presented.

But what struck me the most was the evident over-cautious approach that he brings to this music. Rubinstein and Horowitz both, very different pianists in so many ways, always jumped into this music headfirst with an alarming sense of abandon and wayward indifference to common convention at the time. The results were often full of miscalculations, misinterpretations, and, especially in Rubinstein’s later years, a plethora of wrong notes. But, by God, when it was all over you knew you had been on one hell of a ride! It’s this sense of total immersion at the expense of the scaffolding that I miss here. Take for example, the much beloved Ballade No. 1, an investiture of high emotion if ever there was one. Korevaar is manicured, precise, spot-on, and highly controlled through the entire piece, walking on eggshells when it is obvious that his pianistic skills obviate the need for such an approach. In the subtler and quieter pieces this is not as pronounced, but there are many times when I wished he had just let loose and allowed the fingers to fly.

As is, this is far from being a bad release, and in his many reflective moments there is much to ponder and absorb. Chopin is a difficult composer to perform, and too often he sounds as if he is too much aware of this, when in fact he has no need to be. He will seduce you with his tone however, so be prepared! Recommended, with a few caveats.

—Steven Ritter

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