Hardy Rittner – Frederic Chopin – Complete Etudes (2012)
SACD ISO (2.0/MCH): 3,23 GB | 24B/88,2kHz Stereo FLAC: 938 MB | Full Artwork | 3% Recovery Info
Label/Cat#: MDG “Scene” # 904 1747-6 | Country/Year: Germany 2012
Genre: Classical | Style: Romantic, Piano, Period Instrument
Another wonderful disc from Rittner who quite surpasses himself here.
These works as many will be aware are some of the most popular (to audiences at least, teachers may well hold other views!) studies of the piano and each of the Op. 10 & Op. 25 sets contain popular encores of many a pianist. Not short of competition for the two main sets (the 3 nouvelles Etudes are less popular due to their less melodic compositional style), on a modern Steinway one can choose Chopin: Etudes – Freddy Kempf on SACD or a bewildering number of the greats on RBCD (Backhaus is my personal favourite).
Rittner can hold his head high with all-comers such is his supreme virtuosity and musicianship. So much is heard apparently effortlessly thanks to his choice of piano which is in great voice. One is reminded completely of the phrase “pearls of music” so pellucid is the tone that Rittner draws from this instrument; never, even at the most furious of occasions, is the sound anything near strident. One principle benefit of using a period piano is that the bass line is clear without drowning out the remainder of the textures (even with judicious use of the pedals, it is something that has caused many players of the modern piano to come momentarily clouded).
Tempo choices are pretty much the ideal – barnstorming studies are played like the wind, will-o-the-wisp pieces flutter by and the more profound numbers are given plenty of room to breathe and reveal their depths. Rittner supplies very perceptive notes on both the instrument and interpreting these works and the points he makes are clearly audible in his playing. Rittner is fast becoming the Brautigam of Romantic repertoire!
Fortunately the MDG recording is fully worthy of gracing such playing and has nothing to quibble about whatsoever.
Outstanding. I cannot recommend this disc highly enough.
Copyright © 2012 John Broggio and SA-CD.net
Collectors of Chopin’s music on disc will have in mind the sound of a modern grand piano. Any suggestion of hearing the Etudes on a period piano would probably conjure images of wooden sounds and broken mechanisms. Hardy Rittner blows away all preconceptions on this MDG disc, using a Viennese Conrad Graf piano from about 1835. Chopin played concerts in Vienna on a similar piano a few years earlier, and praised it roundly, despite his usual preference for pianos made by Pleyel.
The Graf pianos were a big step towards modern-sounding pianos. Built on a heavy solid oak frame, they had a large dynamic range and different tonal characteristics in each of the bass, middle and treble regions, so that pianists could “orchestrate” their pieces. Rittner’s 1835 Graf from the Edwin Beunk Collection in the Netherlands also has four pedals: una corda, moderator, double moderator, and forte, which can be used to modify the sound. Rittner discusses these characteristics in his booklet notes, and also mentions that in the course of preparation, he came to truly understand the import of Chopin’s pedal notations, as well as the composer’s seeming perverse placing of accents in some of the studies.
Both books of Etudes are present, and happily also the three later ones, often known as the Trois Nouvelles Etudes (which concern themselves with cross-rhythms between the hands). These demure pieces are usually placed at the end of a disc of Etudes as if they were afterthoughts, but here their clever placement between the Op.10 and op. 25 sets gives them full status.
Rittner is fearless in taking on the Etudes, which are heroic piano miniatures, whose technical difficulties have often caused even the greatest virtuosi to shy away from their finger-twisting difficulties. Artur Rubenstein, one of the great Chopin specialists, never recorded them. However, Rittner gives us virtuosity in full measure on his wonderful piano. The fast pieces are so clearly articulated and fluent that they take the breath away, and Rittner’s control and élan often had me on the edge of my seat. The so-called Revolutionary Etude (Op. 10 no. 12) is a tour de force, with the roiling and boiling arpeggios in the bass far clearer than I have ever heard. Shattering calls to battle in the treble are given with fearsome attack and Rittner’s final head-long plunge to the terminal chords is blistering.
Slower, lyrical and poetic etudes are also revelatory. The profound etude in C sharp minor, Op. 25, no. 7 is the longest and slowest of the studies; the lower voice of its duetting endless melody sounds richly cello-like on the Graf. Musicologist and pianist Charles Rosen has pointed out the similarity of this melody with a duet in the opera ‘Norma’ for cello and soprano, by Bellini, Chopin’s friend. Rittner also brings out a wry sense of humour, for example in the genial study in F major (Op. 10, no.8) which is comically rustic, with a comic folk drone underlying whizzing arpeggios and scales.
Given a well-balanced presence in an neutral open acoustic, the Graf piano sounds marvellous, and Rittner yields to none in his pianism, which is mercurial in its original sense of having the characteristics of eloquence, shrewdness and swiftness attributed to the God Mercury. I would add a large measure of communication to those attributes. This is a remarkable recording which reveals Chopin in a new light.
Copyright © 2012 John Miller and SA-CD.net
01. Etudes op. 10 – Allegro. C major 2:03
02. Etudes op. 10 – Allegro. A minor 1:29
03. Etudes op. 10 – Lento ma non troppo. E major 3:29
04. Etudes op. 10 – Presto. G sharp minor 2:04
05. Etudes op. 10 – Vivace. G flat major 1:35
06. Etudes op. 10 – Andante. E flat minor 2:40
07. Etudes op. 10 – Vivace. C major 1:40
08. Etudes op. 10 – Allegro. F major 2:25
09. Etudes op. 10 – Allegro molto agitato. F minor 1:59
10. Etudes op. 10 – Vivace assai. A flar major 2:08
11. Etudes op. 10 – Allegretto. E flat major 2:18
12. Etudes op. 10 – Allegro con fuoco. C minor 2:41
13. Trois nouvelles Etudes – Andantino. F minor 1:44
14. Trois nouvelles Etudes – Allegretto. A flat major 1:40
15. Trois nouvelles Etudes – Allegretto. D flat major 1:49
16. Etudes op. 25 – Allegro sostenuto. A flat major 2:18
17. Etudes op. 25 – Presto. F minor 1:33
18. Etudes op. 25 – Allegro. F major 2:00
19. Etudes op. 25 – Agitato. A minor 1:57
20. Etudes op. 25 – Vivace. E minor 3:19
21. Etudes op. 25 – Allegro. G sharp minor 2:04
22. Etudes op. 25 – Lento. C sharp minor 4:25
23. Etudes op. 25 – Vivace. D flat major 1:10
24. Etudes op. 25 – Allegro assai. G flat major 1:05
25. Etudes op. 25 – Allegro con fuoco – Lento – Tempo I. B minor 3:47
26. Etudes op. 25 – Lento – Allegro con brio. A minor 3:35
27. Etudes op. 25 – Molto allegro, con fuoco. C minor 2:23
Tonmeister: Friedrich Wilhelm Rödding
Recording: November, 14-16, 2011, Konzerthaus der Abtei Marienmünster
Notes by Prof. Dr. Hartmut Fladt & Hardy Rittner
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