Gapplegate Classical Modern Music

From the LP era on, my Chopin collection tends to break it all down by genre: an album or so of “Nocturnes,” “Scherzos,” etc. That’s fine but then you tend to think of the music in genre blocks. Pianist Burkard Schliessmann had the good idea to select some of the very finest gems and to play them in chronological order, so we can get a first-hand glimpse of the developments that took place in his style over time.

The result is Chronological Chopin (Divine Art 25752 3-CDs). This is a three-SACD set, which means you can play it in surround sound on a player that is capable, but also still enjoy it on two-channel systems with a conventional player. The sound is brilliant either way.

Burkard Schliessmann gives us impassioned readings, beautifully, poetically realized performances with maximum affective impact yet full command of the notes. He is not by any means a sloppy sort of romantic pianistic vessel, but his phrasings follow the swells of feeling rather than a sort of pinpoint mapping, if that makes any sense. Rubatos and dynamics take us far into the music without sounding the least bit contrived or manipulated. In short he gives us near ideal readings, on the warm side of the possibilities, the interpretive side rather than the supercharged virtuoso-centered side.

Hearing these works in chronological order gives you a feeling of life passing. It may be the earlier Chopin of the op. 28 “Preludes” is already pregnant with the depth of feeling and expressive arcs of his later years. On the other hand the world of the “Polonaise-Fantaisie op. 61” gives us more intensified depth, a more profound sense of how things are (for Chopin) and how a piano work can express that fully, beyond words, ineffable.

It takes some time hearing these works unfold in temporal sequence, and it all will need to be transposed to your own senses in order to grasp what it all means for yourself. So I will leave it to your own impressions over time as you listen to the new sequencing and Burkard Schliessmann’s special way with it all.

It has given me pause, all of this, and given me a new appreciation for Chopin the composer in a lifetime. It is a beautiful set, really rather remarkable. Schliessmann brings to the music a special understanding. Highly recommended.

—Grego Edwards