Wrightmusic

When I read the publicity quotes in the sleeve notes to this disc, I shuddered. Miss Fiderkiewicz is described as “the high-priestess of Chopin”, an inane and absurd remark. Is it intended to instil in us the notion that she is the greatest Chopin player and that if we disagree we are guilty of not worshipping her? It reminds of that famous and stupid remark of Barbirolli when he said, “You cannot be a musician or even a music lover if you don’t adore Elgar and every note he wrote!”

The quote attributed to Rubinstein that only Poles can play Chopin is also nonsense.

These comments, although probably sincere, alienate people as they are sycophantic remarks and display an arrogance which people baulk at. It would be best to explain why she is so good and couch these reasons in musical terms.

However, Miss Fiderkiewicz has a growing international reputation and deservedly so. She has a tone of exquisite beauty and does not fall into the trap of being maudlin. There is an intensity in her playing of the major works which is not marred by emotionalism . Her style is admirable and generally in accord with Chopin.

Chopin’s music is not macho and has often been described as effeminate and weak with an emphasis at the top of the piano making the music tinkly and akin to a music box. His music has not the depth of Beethoven or Liszt, but for pianists to turn Chopin’s music into silly anaemic tinkling is unforgivable.

Sixty percent of this disc is devoted to miniatures namely two nocturnes and seven mazurkas. I assume the pianist chose what to put on this disc but it would have been preferable if she had balanced her programme by including more of the better pieces. One would love to hear her plays the scherzos or the first and fourth ballads.

Nonetheless her playing is totally convincing and it is evidence that she knows the music well.

The Ballad no 3 is probably the best piece on the disc. It does not have the brilliance of the scherzos or the G minor ballade and it has been said that it is based on a Lithuanian folk song and Undine , the evil water sprite. The piece certainly has the feel of a narrative. The balance between the hands is exemplary and the pianist negotiates the tessituras without the banality usually given to them. The music is episodic as it is in the Polonais-Fantasie, and does not hang together well even when outstanding pianists do their best to achieve this. Miss Fiderkiewicz is at her best in the more robust music.

I regret that the Prelude in C sharp minor is here referred to as number 25 as if it is a continuation of the 24 Preludes, Op 28 completed about two years earlier. The Opus 45 is a work on its own and superior to the Op 28. The Op 45 is an intriguing piece which asks more questions than it gives answers.

Sadly, the Polonaise-Fantasie Op 61 is my bete noir. I have known it for forty years and never liked it. It is bits and pieces linked together unsatisfactorily and does not really make a whole. ” It lacks cohesion ,” wrote one famous Chopin pianist and it was composed when Chopin was often ill and emotionally disturbed with his extreme mood changes this work has been called the product of a manic depressive. Whether or not I agree , I can see the point .

Chopin was a difficult man. His amti-Semiticism was fiercer than that of Wagner and , in his last years, when he was looked after by the Scottish spinster, Jane Stirling who cared for him and literally kept him alive Chopin was hateful to her. It is my belief that his unpleasant character is often shown in is music. His changes of mood are evident in some of his piece

There are many other recordings of these works and I recommend Stephen Houghs’ CD of the scherzos and ballades on Hyperion CDA67456 and the complete nocturnes and mazurkas played by Angela Hewitt on CDA67371/2.

As for this disc it is well played and the pianist is to be admired, but the choice of programme lets it down. {** – obviously the reviewer, by his own admission, simply dislikes a lot of Chopin}

—David Wright