Der Neue Merker

Chopin as a soft parlor-music composer with a trend towards Kitsch? Forget that, once you listen to the newest recordings of Burkard Schliessmann. The pianist quotes Robert Schumann in his reflections about Fréderic Chopin, who once said about Chopin’s music “Cannons hidden under flowers”.

The unapproachable, rather introverted romantic genius was a great, noble stylist in absolute music. Not the least bit of literary ‘program’ dilutes the musical appropriation of the world as beauty emerging from pain. There are many excellent Chopin recordings, even though it is not clear to me which one of these interpretations would have been valued by Chopin. The key to this may lie in the treatment of the rubato – rhythmically tight play with songful character. Chopin hated “all stretching and pulling, inappropriate rubato as well as exaggerated ritardando” .

Contemporary composers like Berlioz felt Chopin’s playing rather exaggerated, free and much too arbitrary. Is it possible that Chopin did not allow his students the freedom he reserved for himself?

Burkard Schliessmann’s fascinating approach sees the homage and proximity to Bach as constructive in, for example, the Preludes. Schliessmann prefers a clear structure and line representing controlled emotions: “crystalline clarity as dominating means should impress the harmonic model.” And in respect to liberties in dynamics and rhythm, Schliessmann appears to set his own boundaries, within which he pays homage through an improvising and re-creating approach. But I find it exceedingly exciting that “floating, weightless, endless and finally the grand cantabile of Poetry” grow out of playing such a tight baseline. Schliessmann has studied his favorite composer intensively for a long time. The result is not only convincing, but overwhelming in many aspects. This is Chopin to re-discover and re-listen to.

In chronological order one can experience on 3 CDs: four Scherzi, the Ballades 1-4, the 24 Preludes Op. 28, the expansive Fantasia in F minor Op.49, the Barcarolle Op.60 and the stunning Polonaise-Fantaisie in A flat major Op.61. The Prelude in C sharp minor Op. 45 as well as the Berceuse in D flat major Op. 57 round off the program.

One cannot describe how Schliessmann plays all this, one needs to listen to it. The 5-channel recording will be appreciated by the audiophile.

—Dr. Ingobert Waltenberger