October 2004

Chopin - Twelve Études, Op. 25, etc.
Frederic Chiu, piano
Harmonia Mundi HMU 907282
Released: 2004

by Richard Freed

Musical Performance *****
Recording Quality *****
Overall Enjoyment *****

Curiously, the greatly beloved Arthur Rubinstein, in his otherwise exhaustive recorded survey of Chopin’s works, never gave us all the Études. He made two recordings of the Trois Nouvelles Études (without opus number), but only seven individual pieces from among the 24 that make up Opp. 10 and 25. Several other pianists, of course, have given us both of those sets complete, and they fit comfortably on a single CD, but perhaps none offered such durably fascinating accounts of the études as Frederic Chiu did in his Harmonia Mundi recording of the Op. 10 set. That CD, filled out with Chopin’s four rondos [HMU 907201], became a favored "demo," for both the freshness of the performances and the stunning realism of the piano sound; naturally, those who have been enjoying it have been waiting for HM to drop the other shoe, and now at last here is Chiu in the rest of the études.

Once again Chiu’s fresh thinking combines with sure technique to reveal the structural strength of this familiar material without sacrificing its brilliance or charm. In addition to the Op. 25 set and the Trois Nouvelles Études, the new disc offers three more Chopin pieces that have been relatively underexposed: the Berceuse in D-flat, Op. 57; the Barcarolle in F-sharp, Op. 60, and the expansive Polonaise-Fantaisie, Op. 61. Nothing quite like the powerhouse opening of the Op. 10 Études here for testing or showing off your system, but in every musical respect this splendid follow-up is as certifiably indispensable as its well-regarded predecessor.