Fedorova: Shaping Chopin = Grande Valse brillante in E-flat Major, Op. 18; 3 Waltzes, Op. 34; Waltz in A-flat Major, Op. 42; Three Mazurkas, Op. 50; 3 Waltzes, Op. 64; Fantasie-Impromptu in C-sharp Minor, Op. 66 – Anna Fedorova, piano – Channel Classics CCS 43621 (8/27/21) 63:35 [Distr. by PIAS] ****:
Ukrainian pianist Anna Fedorova (b. 1990) claims that the Covid crisis sent her into an isolation that only recourse to the oeuvre of Chopin could relieve. For this hour-long recital, Fedorova eschews the large Chopin canvasses and concentrates on those salon pieces that no less enjoy the capacity to explode into universal statements. She opens with the 1833 Grande Valse brillante, Chopin’s first published waltz, whose penchant, after an introductory B-flat, is to exploit its lilting tune with moves into the subdominant and relative minor. Chopin lamented he had not yet imbibed the Viennese waltz style, but his acumen here proves lithe and captivating. Fedorova projects a light, suave rendition, sparkling in its facile grace, personal rubato, and stylistic security. The deft, repeated notes gain buoyancy and momentum for the finale, reaching high in the piano’s register, only to die away in a marvelous flourish around the tonic triad.
Fedorova turns to Chopin’s adaptation of the operatic bel canto for his Two Nocturnes, Op. 27 (1835). From the ambiguous, opening harmony of No. 1, Fedorova weaves a lulling meditation whose gravitas increases, the middle section martially suggestive of a fierce mazurka, touched by waltz impulses. Fedorova’s left hand moves in soft, octave cadenzas back to the home key of C-sharp Minor, the whole dissolving in a rarified aether in C-sharp Major, enharmonically the major mode of the companion piece, in D-flat Major. Even without a contrasting middle section, this latter nocturne, so masterfully realized by Dinu Lipatti, evolves from Fedorova in gossamer veils in thirds and sixths, moving to a passionate mazurka texture. Fedorova’s right hand ascends in glistening scales, fioritura from an operatic aria in which the duet form here predominates. The right hand coda in sixths loftily moves us into the realm of timeless beauty, concluding Chopin’s most voluptuous nocturne.
The Three Waltzes, Op. 34 (1838) embody the combination of “frenzied bravura and flights of poetry,” as asserted by Ferdynand Hoesick.
Fedorova takes a moderately slow tempo in the A-flat Waltz, though not so languid as we find in late Claudio Arrau. Fedorova relishes the sonority of Chopin’s chords in thirds and sixths, and the middle melody, in D-flat Major, sings with tender vigor. The refined optimism of the piece stands in direct emotional contrast with the A Minor Waltz, whose melancholy projects much of the Polish sensibility, especially in its mazurka overtones. The left hand, singing line seems suited to the cello register, and even momentary digressions into the major mode do not lighten the nostalgic glimpse of the composer’s homeland. The F Major reverts to the sunny fervor of the ballroom, although only professions might dance to this concert piece. Fedorova’s trills and staccato notes seem to bubble forth in musical champagne. The ensuing Paris creation, the 2/4 Waltz in A-flat Major, Op. 42, many connoisseurs consider Chopin’s his finest in the waltz genre. Schumann admired its aristocratic poise. Its fascinating combination of two dotted quarter notes against three quarter notes in the bass, slightly off the beat – before and after – of the melody’s second note, creates the illusion of competing, dancing couples. Later, the accent on the third quarter note introduces mazurka rhythm into an already challenging agogic, which Fedorova relishes as much as Josef Hofmann in his own way.
Fedorova next turns to the three mature Mazurkas, Op. 50 (1841-1842), of which the first two, In G Major and A-flat Major, play as abbreviated sonata forms. The Allegretto, No. 2, unfolds in a martial mood, but it softens into nostalgic reminiscence. The C-sharp Minor presents a complex labyrinth of poetry and learned polyphony, easily obligated to Chopin’s deep reverence for Bach and a handbook on counterpoint by Cherubini. The high voiced series of variants in oberek style achieves a momentum both poetic and virtuosic, allowing Fedorova to apply a degree of rubato to lilt the phraseology to her taste. The piece ends on a chromatic stretto, executed with panache by an artist thoroughly comfortable with her color arsenal.
With the 3 Waltzes, Op. 64 (1846-1847), we have become thoroughly immersed in Fedorova’s consistent and persuasive legato, her obedience to Chopin’s explicit, pedagogical directive on wrist position (especially vertical position in repeated notes and octaves) to achieve vocal fluency in piano playing, similar to an operatic performer. The opening D-flat Waltz, Molto vivace, has a quick ¾ tempo, fast scales, and a demanding trill, bars 69-72. Fedorova softens the propulsive line to allow a mazurka impulse to invade the swirling motion. The C-sharp Minor Waltz offers a stately rondo that increases in velocity and concludes enharmonically, in D-flat Major. Double notes, repeated notes, and two-note slurs add to the color of this popular waltz. Fedorova’s pedal and control timbre impress us with the idiosyncratic allure. The A-flat Waltz, in ternary form, moves to a bright C Major in its middle section. The tune appears in shifting keys, the melody in the left hand and leaps in the right hand, so the waltz becomes a color etude for the Chopin connoisseur. Bach makes his presence known in two-voice counterpoint. Fedorova gives the waltz a natural, aerial lilt, the Moderato’s having gained a palpable impetus to a grand finale.
While Chopin had little affection for his 1834 Fantasie-Impromptu in C-sharp Minor, even requesting his unpublished manuscripts be destroyed, posterity has proven more generous. The sweeping motion in 16ths accompanied by left hand triplet arpeggios first came my way by both Claudio Arrau and Robert Goldsand; later, Artur Rubinstein. Fedorova tempers the often manic opening pages with a sense of melodic contour and restrained drama. The wonderful cantilena melody of its middle (moderato) section has us chasing poetic Beauty, as well as intimate rainbows. Her conclusion emphasizes the fantasy element, sweeping and even tempestuous, ending quietly, with the left hand’s offering some notes from the moderato, while the right hand 16ths carry us far away.