Thursday, May 4, 2017

Frédéric Chopin - Nocturnes (Ivan Moravec)


Composer: Frédéric Chopin

  1. Nocturne No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 9 No. 1
  2. Nocturne No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 9 No. 2
  3. Nocturne No. 3 in B major, Op. 9 No. 3
  4. Nocturne No. 4 in F major, Op. 15 No. 1
  5. Nocturne No. 5 in F sharp major, Op. 15 No. 2
  6. Nocturne No. 6 in G minor, Op. 15 No. 3
  7. Nocturne No. 7 in C sharp minor, Op. 27 No. 1
  8. Nocturne No. 8 in D flat major, Op. 27 No. 2
  9. Nocturne No. 9 in B major, Op. 32 No. 1
  10. Nocturne No. 10 in A flat major, Op. 32 No. 2
  1. Nocturne No. 11 in G minor, Op. 37 No. 1
  2. Nocturne No. 12 in G major, Op. 37 No. 2
  3. Nocturne No. 13 in C minor, Op. 48 No. 1
  4. Nocturne No. 14 in F sharp minor, Op. 48 No. 2
  5. Nocturne No. 15 in F minor, Op. 55 No. 1
  6. Nocturne No. 16 in E flat major, Op. 55 No. 2
  7. Nocturne No. 17 in B major, Op. 62 No. 1
  8. Nocturne No. 18 in E major, Op. 62 No. 2
  9. Nocturne No. 19 in E minor, Op. posth. 72

Ivan Moravec, piano
Date: 1965
Label: Supraphon (original on Nonesuch)



Ivan Moravec’s Chopin nocturnes are the stuff of legend. They’ve been that way since they were recorded in 1965, and this new reissue, on the Supraphon label and containing a brand-new interview with the pianist, is the ideal way to own them. These two CDs contain some of the greatest Chopin performances ever recorded.

The wonders and delights are many. Moravec’s way with phrasing is unequaled: though there is a lot of rubato and artistic license, it all feels utterly natural and ‘right’. The result is to magnify, rather than detract from, Chopin’s genius: the slow unfurling of some nocturnes’ opening melodies, the total naturalness of transitions, the very quietly awe-inspiring ability of Moravec to find a different shade, a different tone, for nearly every note. There are comparisons to be made to other pianists - my collection contains Arrau, Rubinstein, Ohlsson, Pires, Wild, and Boegner complete - but with playing of this greatness, it is both difficult and futile to make them. Moravec is not consistently fast, or slow, or any one adjective at all, except perhaps reverential. Every nocturne presents a new interpretive joy. “[Chopin’s] imagination, his fancy, was so extraordinary that you can simply play one composition after another and each of them will have its particular world.” So says Moravec himself, and then he proves it.

This is a new re-mastering, dating from 2012 and from the Supraphon team, who licensed the recordings from Nonesuch. I’m not enough of an audiophile to give a detailed report on the differences, aside from maybe a touch better sense of the acoustical space. The real gem of the re-release is the booklet, which contains a four-page interview with Moravec himself. Aside from the remark above, he talks about the experience of hearing these recordings after fifty years, the state of pianism today, his care in selecting a piano, and one or two odd revelations. “You know,” he blurts out, “my true love is actually singing.” This may well explain the songlike nature of his playing.

I’m surprising nobody by praising this, and indeed there is really very little I can add to the chorus. Donald Manildi, American Record Guide: “one of the great Chopin recordings of all time.” Henry Fogel, Fanfare: “among the great piano recordings of the 20th century.” Steve Smith, New York Times: “truly, this is an essential document.” Leslie Gerber: “moment after moment of revelatory beauty. Many critics consider this the greatest set of the Chopin nocturnes ever recorded…” There is only one qualm to point out: this set does not include the two nocturnes published posthumously. I very much wish it did, because few if any pianists achieve this sort of beauty in every single work.

The new Supraphon issue is for two types of people: those who for some reason did not have Moravec’s Chopin nocturnes before, and those who did, but wish to read the interview and perhaps hear the new masterings. If you’re in the latter group, invest with a connoisseur’s savvy. If you’re in the former, goodness what a wondrous journey awaits.

-- Brian Reinhart, MusicWeb International

More reviews:


Frédéric Chopin (22 February or 1 March 1810 – 17 October 1849) was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist of the Romantic era who wrote primarily for the solo piano. He gained and has maintained renown worldwide as one of the leading musicians of his era, whose "poetic genius was based on a professional technique that was without equal in his generation". Chopin's music, his status as one of music's earliest superstars, his association (if only indirect) with political insurrection, his love life and his early death have made him a leading symbol of the Romantic era in the public consciousness. His works remain popular, and he has been the subject of numerous films and biographies of varying degrees of historical accuracy.


Ivan Moravec (9 November 1930 – 27 July 2015) was a Czech concert pianist whose performing and recording career spanned nearly half a century. Moravec studied with Erna Grünfeld, Ilona Štěpánová-Kurzová and attend master classes in Arezzo with Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli. Moravec had a reputation for attention to the condition of the pianos he played. Moravec's recordings for the Connoisseur Society were notable for their audiophile quality, and he also recorded for several other labels, including Vox, Nonesuch, Dorian, Hänssler, and Supraphon.


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