Music Reviews

A Dream Come True: Anna Fedorova’s Chopin

Did Chopin ever die?

Chopin belongs to a group of composers who never tire, no matter how often you listen to the same piece. Just like Johann Sebastian Bach, his music can be listened to anytime anywhere. I do not know of anyone who dislikes his music. On the contrary. For countless lovers of the art of Euterpe, Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin remains through the ages as alive as ever. His magical inventions continue to enchant. That’s probably why there are never enough recordings of his music. On condition though that the interpreter understands his language. This new release proves it beyond any shade of doubt.

Are women better than men?

A tricky question, maybe a personal one, too. Chopin’s sensibility and poetical expression clearly fit other muses than Euterpe as well, like Erato and perhaps even Melpomene. Is it this divine connection that makes women more apt than men to understand Chopin’s musical language? I think so. Several female pianists rank prominently on my hit list. Maria João Pires is one of them. But also the late Halina Czerny-Stefanska, and of course, Martha Argerich and Mitsuko Uchida. Naturally, this list is not exhaustive and I’d not be surprised if some would like to add Ingrid Fliter (2000 Warsaw Chopin Competition). 

I can’t and I won’t hide the fact that I’m an avid admirer of Anna Borysivna Fedorova ever since I heard her play Rachmaninoff. She equals men in technique, bravura, and yes, power, but adding what they often don’t or manage to a lesser degree: Lyrical poetry. Listening to her shaping Chopin, the same is true. In all my subjectivity I have no hesitancy to add Anna to the above hit list.

However, and possibly because of all the expressiveness and firm nationalistic statements, like in his polonaises, male interpreter features high on the winner’s line-up of most Chopin piano competitions, notably the famous Warsaw International Chopin Piano Competition, proving me wrong. But as far as I’m concerned Chopin is so much more: The loving poetry, the soul-searching melancholy, the lyricism, and the quasi ‘simplicity’ of his melodies. That’s where, in my view, many male species stand to lose against female intuition, enabling them to better unravel subtle differences between the two main characteristics of Chopin’s creative mind.

Photo: Nicholas Santangelo Schwartz

Shaping a composer’s unique story

Reading Federova’s personal notes is a pleasant and most revealing exercise. “While performing Chopin’s miniatures it feels like diving into a living painting, artistically shaping its unique story, colours and characters with music”. Concluding with the hope that “the awe-inspiring magic of Chopin’s music will comfort you amidst difficult times (Covid-19) as it has done for me, and that it sweeps you away into the fantasy world of your dreams!”

True to what she says, the Grande Valse Brillante in E-Flat Major, Op.18, with which the programme opens, comes to life as a comprehensive story. Precise and articulate in its aristocratic beauty; strong and convincing in its loving recite. Several of the following ‘miniatures’, so much appreciated by the beau monde of the Paris ‘salons’, become in her interpretation sensually and handsomely crafted masterpieces, which continue to appeal time and again.

Anna’s Choice

Most of us will have sets of the ‘complete’ Nocturnes, Mazurkas, Waltzes, etc. Here we have to follow Anna’s Choice, a carefully varied programme. Was it done to please the listener? That’s what happened to me. But we must give her at the same time and above all much more credit for having selected a tastefully designed combination of ‘miniatures’ rendering her recital more attractive than the usual complete set of any of them. Indeed, it swept me away into the fantasy world of my dreams, perhaps best concretized in the concluding Fantaisie-Impromptu in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 66. Compared to the many readings I have, this one stands out as one of the most compelling versions I own.

Indeed, it swept me away into the fantasy world of my dreams (…)

Photo: Marco Borggreve all rights reserved

A Dream Come True

Great music and great soloists, like Anna Fedorova, deserve the best possible sound reproduction to lift the music into the reality of a concert experience at home. The  Pure DSD engineering by Channel Classics obliges and my ears concur: The concert grand sounds like a concert grand. What else do we need to make a dream come true?

Copyright © 2021 Adrian Quanjer and HRAudio

Written by

Adrian Quanjer

Adrian Quanjer is a site reviewer at HRAudio, with many years of experience in classical music. He writes from his country retreat at Blangy-le-Château, France. As a regular concertgoer, he prefers listening to music in the highest possible resolution to recreate similar involvement at home. He is eager to share his thoughts with like-minded melomaniacs at NativeDSD.

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