Emanuel Ax - Chopin - Ballades & Mazurkas Scherzos And
Original recording remastered
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I think Emanuel Ax has settled into routine playing as he's aged, but these are premiere Chopin interpretations from two decades ago. Now that Sony and BMG have merged their classical divisions, it's possible to issue Ax's excellent 1985 reading of the four Ballades--the best ever done by an American--with a 1988 recital of Mazurkas and the four Scherzi. The first recital was originally on RCA, the second on Sony. But just to confuse things a bit more, the readings here of Scherzos #2 and #4 are dropped in from an even earlier RCA recording.
The provenance won't matter that much to the general listener, who will be happy with the budget price for probably the best Chopin two-fer on the market. Begin listening with the four Ballades, where Ax is at his most impassioned and inspired. Even three years later, when he got to Scherzos #1 and #3, he had become more refined and relaxed, less a romantic risk-taker. He's remained that way ever since, but here at least we can hear Ax...
Amoung the great composers, Chopin's compositions to me have a special richness and deeply satisfying quality to them - both intellectually and emotionally. There rarely tire the ear. The Ballades especially have a richness to them - taking us on a unique journey in Chopin's world, freer to explore and probe the depths of human experience.
Equally so, the quality of Emanual Ax's readings here (of especially the Ballades) also possesses this deeply satisfying quality that makes one marvel of Chopin's greatness. Maybe it is the lack of excessiveness or showmanship and just spinning out the works with a keen clarity as the score indicates that creates this response. You get the sense that he serves the music wholeheartedly and with honor. Yet it is not playing that lacks emotive depth and virtuososity - just not calling attention to itself. Ax is one of our great Chopin players and the Ballades here may be the finest example. The other pieces are excellent too but the...
American pianist Emanuel Ax recorded some years ago with an insightful inspiration both concertos by Chopin on a historical piano (Erard). Then I highly praised his accounts and considered him one of the most gifted Chopinians among the living pianists. This release gathers some works by the same composer (to whom Ax seems to have indeed a strong affinity) recorded at various times in Ax's career, namely CD 1 in eighties, CD 2 in seventies.
What I particularly enjoy in Ax's renditions here is that sort of modesty in front of the scores he performs. His vision is a poised one. He is looking neither for glamorous effects, nor for bare virtuosity, but his playing aims at getting the essence of this music. The contours are not broken at all. There is no showy attempt, no mawkish bulges, no fancy "comments on", but a proper reading with infinite care for the detail and the mood as well. Sentimentalism is minutely controlled, what could be a danger of exaggeration is naturally...
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