handsome and rare LP from Deutsche Gramophon (423 090-1, German pressing, DDD
stereo) features Krystian Zimerman's exalted account of Chopin's Four Ballades
(No. 1 in G minor Op. 23, No. 2 in F Major Op. 38, No. 3 in A-flat Major Op.
47, No. 4 in F minor Op. 52), the Barcarolle in F-sharp Major Op. 60 and the
Fantasie in F minor Op. 49, recorded at Bielfeld, Rudolf-Oetker-Halle, Grosser
Saal in September 1987 (production: Hanno Rinke / recording supervision and
balance engineer: Helmut Bark).
critic Joan Chissell in the October 1988 issue of The Gramophone:
"Like Bolet (Decca) only four months ago, Zimerman follows
the Ballades with the Barcarolle and F minor Fantasie. In their approach to
this music the two players could nevertheless hardly be more unlike—which is
perhaps not altogether surprising in view of their difference of years. Pace
JM-C I thought Bolet's playing unfail ingly elegant as well as marked by many a
moment of true poetry. But as a septuagenarian he prefers to recollect emotion
in tranquillity, taking his time and keeping his cool even when Chopin himself
is aflame. With Zimerman there is total surrender to the impulse of the moment.
Each piece comes up with all the immediacy of a brand new discovery. His is
musical story-telling at its most arrestingly dramatic, reproduced with a
richness and warmth of sonority to match the playing.
the G minor Ballade I greatly admired the way he sustains a feeling of
self-evolving growth. The intensity of his involvement is apparent (even in his
breathing) right from the start, but as in all four he holds so very much in
reserve for impassioned outbursts to come. No. 2 in F allows him to give full
rein to his liking for the boldest contrasts of both dynamics and tempo, though
its two great storms are all the more powerful for not being rushed. And how
beautifully he dissolves tumult into the last, plaintive minor-key recall of
the opening theme—even if allowing himself a little license in achieving his
ends. In the A flat Ballade I found his delight in the unexpected C major
tonality in bars 29 to 35 wholly irresistible, as indeed all his very simple,
quiet opening. In the F minor Ballade he surely overdoes the pause on that G
flat melody note (which Chopin marks only with a tenuto) in bar 56. But he
plays almost as if composing the music as he goes along. I felt parts of it
might emerge quite differently on another occasion, whereas with Bolet, as JM-C
observed, the course seems preconceived and absolute. There are memorable (in
their very different ways) older performances of the Ballades still available
on CD from Gavrilov (EMI), Davidovich (Philips), Rubinstein (RCA), and most of
all, the supersensitive, poetic Ashkenazy (Decca). But Zimerman must now join
note to the collector: The English liner notes were written by pianist Denis
Matthews; those in German by Karl Schumann (also included in a French
translation). Incidentally, the cover photo of Zimerman was taken by Zbigniew
The gradations of condition
I use are as follows: MINT, Near-Mint, Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor.
The condition of the jacket,
still largely in the original shrinkwrap is near-MINT. There is very slight
bumping at corners, but that is all. Otherwise, the album appears almost as
new. There are no seamsplits, bends, owners' markings, or other defects and the
album remains solid, bright, glossy, and very striking in appearance – overall,
a lovely collector's copy.
The condition of the LP
itself is near-MINT and playback is superb – overall, this rates as a truly
fine collector's copy.
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