CHOPIN: Waltz in C# minor, Op.64 No. 2. Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 35. Ballade No. 4 in F minor, Op. 52. Mazurka in A minor, Op. 17 No. 4. Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21.
Khatia Buniatishvili, piano; Orchestra of Paris./Paavo Järvi, cond.
SONY CLASSICAL 88691971292 TT: 71:01
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CHOPIN: Etudes, Op. 25. Nocturne in E flat, Op. 55 No. 2. Nocturne in F, Op. 15 No. 1. Grande Valse Baillante in E flat, Op. 18. Andante Spianato & Grande Polonaise, Op. 22. Nocturne in C# minor, Op. posth. Waltz in D flat, Op. 64 No. 2. Tristesse (Oh Land version)
Lang Lang, piano
SONY CLASSICAL 8872548960 TT: 74:53
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BACH-CORTOT-HOUGH: Toccata and Fugue in D minor. BACH-CORTOT: Arioso from Keyboard Concerto No. 5 in F minor. FAURÉ: Nocturne No. 6 in D flat, Op. 63. Improvisation in C sharp minor, Op. 84 No. 5. Impromptu No. 5 in F sharp minor, Op. 102. Barcarolle No. 5 in F sharp minor, Op. 66. RAVEL: Alborada del gracioso. MASSENET-HOUGH: Crépuscule. CHABRIER: Mélancolie. POULENC: Mélancolie. Nocturne No. 4 in C minor 'Bal fantome'. Improvisation No. 8 in A minor. CHAMINADE: Automme, Op. 35 No. 2. ALKAN: La chanson de la folle au bord de la mer, Op. 31 No. 8. DEBUSSY: Clair de lune. DELIBES-HOUGH: Pizzicati. LISZT: Réminiscences de "La juive."
Stephen Hough, piano
HYPERION CDA67890 TT: 78:35
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RACHMANINOFF: Piano Concerto No. 1 in F# minor, Op. 1. Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18. Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini, Op. 43
Benno Moiseiwitsch, piano; Philharmonia Orch/Sir Malcolm Sargent, cond. London Philharmonic Orch/Walter Goehr (Concerto No. 2). London Philharmonic Orch/Basil Cameron (Rhapsody)
PRISTINE AUDIO PASC 358 TT: 78:19

About a year ago this site reviewed Georgian pianist Khatia Buniatishvili's remarkable Liszt recording (REVIEW). For her second disk for Sony, Buniatishvili turns to Chopin. Again the packaging emphasizes glamour; apparently publicity departments feel sex sells CDs—and maybe it does. There is much beautiful playing to be heard, but exaggerated interpretive choices diminish the total effect. Sonata No. 2 is given a rather frantic reading which also could be said about the major work, Piano Concerto No. 2 in which the French orchestra and conductor Paavo Järvi collaborate in a superficial performance. The CD jacket says there is a bonus video: Warsaw-Paris, a short film conceived by and featuring the pianist—with instructions that to play the film put the CD in your computer which is than supposed to play it automatically; however, nothing happened on my two computers, so this film remains a mystery to me.

Lang Lang's latest disk, also devoted to Chopin, is typical of the pianist's style. Technically perfect, the interpretations are mannered to the extreme and willful, with unconvincing tempo changes. This release is available in two versions, the regular CD mentioned here, and a deluxe hardcover book set with a CD, My Life with Chopin, should you wish to watch him perform—which I choose not to do. These recordings were made in Berlin in June of this year; producers have provided bass-heavy audio. The final track, Tristesse ("Sadness") is adapted from Chopin's Etude Op. 10 No. 4. Lang Lang is joined by Danish pop singer Oh Land from the soundtrack for the film The Flying Machine. This has no place on a classical CD except, perhaps, to show Lang Lang's proclivity for publicity.

"The French Album"? Not quite unless you stretch a bit. Three of the works were arranged by Frenchmen, and the final work was written by a Frenchman, arranged by a Hungarian and further adapted by Hough, who is British. But no matter. This is a delightful disk in every way, imaginatively programmed and superbly performed. There are many gems here, particularly Massenet's Crépuscule, an enchanting miniature of the greatest simplicity—a treasure indeed. Hough, always the supreme musician, shows he also has a sense of humor evidenced by his arrangement of Delibes' Pizzicato Polka. His virtuosity and beautiful tone are particularly evident in the Ravel and Liszt works. Hyperion's sound could not be bettered. A marvelous release in every way!

Ukraine-born pianist Benno Moiseiwitsch (1890-1963), a legendary figure of the pianistic world, had a flawless technique and unique sound. He was particularly famous for his Rachmaninoff performances; the composer was a good friend of his, and Moiseiwitsch recorded a number of Rachmaninoff's works. He always wanted to record Rachmaninoff's transcription of the Scherzo from Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream, but never had the opportunity until a recording session ended early and there was time for a single take of the work. It was a phenomenal performance, unmatched to this day—you can hear it on YouTube. This important Pristine Audio CD offers music of Rachmaninoff: Concerto No. 1 recorded December 29, 1948, Concerto No. 2 November 24 and December 19, 1937, and the Rhapsody December 5, 1938. These are grand performances with surging climaxes and that distinctive Moiseiwitsch sound. It seemss to me there is a very small cut in the first movement cadenza of Concerto No. 1—it's almost hard to tell as so much is going on at that momnent—1:12 before the end. Perhaps the pianist was so taken up by the exciting (and VERY difficult) music that he skipped a bar? Or could it be an editing error? Anyone else notice this? It surely doesn't distract from the vivid performance. Thanks to Pristine Audio's remastering, these performances sound better than ever before. This is available from PRISTINE AUDIO. Collectors might wish to investigate the Naxos series of Moiseiwitsch recordings available only in Europe.

R.E.B. (October 2012)