Magazine article The New Yorker

Chopin List

Magazine article The New Yorker

Chopin List

Article excerpt

Is there a composer who blends shadow and substance as unforgettably as Chopin? The music invades our soul but also stands apart with an aristocratic reserve; the melodies quiver with sensitivity but arise from an intricate web of counterpoint that emulates Bach. And we will never get enough of it, as a new batch of recordings proves.

The two piano concertos represent the composer at his most public and proud, but Lang Lang, in his new disk on Deutsche Grammophon, drains them of any intimacy or sustaining interest. The technique, by itself, is dazzling, and Zubin Mehta and the Vienna Philharmonic manufacture no end of gorgeous sound. But Lang is outclassed by Vassily Primakov, the young Russian pianist who has been taken up by the small but distinguished Bridge label. For Lang, rubato means slowing down whenever a right-hand roulade graces the end of a bar; for Primakov, well supported by the Odense Symphony Orchestra and the conductor Paul Mann, it is a device in which shifts of tempo, tone color, and articulation are blended into a subtly modulating flow. Primakov, a Juilliard graduate, is making a strikingly personal adaptation of the brawny Russian national style. …

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