Magazine article Gramophone

Chopin: 'Complete Piano Sonatas'

Magazine article Gramophone

Chopin: 'Complete Piano Sonatas'

Article excerpt

Chopin

'Complete Piano Sonatas'

Piano Sonatas--No 1, Op 4; No 2, Op 35; No 3, Op 58

Wolfram Schmitt-Leonardy pf

Brilliant (B) 95209 (79' * DDD)

Wolfram Schmitt-Leonardy is hardly a household name. On this showing, he deserves to be. He is a storyteller. If the narrative is not that compelling (ie the first two movements of the early C minor Sonata) it is hardly his fault. When we get to that strange 5/4 Larghetto, however, things change as we enter that unique and magical world that the Polish composer created. This and the relentless finale almost salvage the work. If you have never heard this comparative rarity before, you might as well hear it at its best, as here.

Schmitt-Leonardy's opening phrasing and tempos in the first movement of the B flat minor Sonata struck me as nigh-on ideal--unforced, rhythmically buoyant, textually translucent and without the blurred focus and over-pedalled attack favoured by George Li (Warner Classics, 10/17). Schmitt-Leonardy prefers to take the exposition repeat da capo (the extensive and very good English-only booklet argues the case for this). He brings some lovely touches to this much-recorded masterpiece, such as the tapered final chord of the first movement ('there is more to come!'), the full weight of the resonant bass he employs to powerful effect in both the Scherzo and outer sections of the 'Marche funebre' and the most superb articulation which he brings to the ghostly octaves of the finale.

By now, all fences crossed with such grace and ease, one is left hoping that the B minor Sonata will maintain this consistently high level. …

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