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Chopin Études for Piano



To Chopin the piano was as natural and instinctive a means of expression as speech or writing are to others. He thought in terms of the instrument, and all his music is designed to fit the character of human hands at the keyboard. But they were hands developed beyond anything previously achieved in terms of technique, taking advantage of improvements in piano manufacture that allowed wider range and more capacity for varied dynamics and ‘colour’.

His first Etudes were composed precisely for this end, partly under the spell of hearing Paganini’s dazzling violin virtuosity on a visit to Warsaw in 1829, when Chopin was aged 19, end partly to help him in relation to his own F minor Piano Concerto which he was then writing. He completed this the following year, shortly before he left Poland, to seek his fame in Vienna and then in Paris.

Chopin Études for Piano


"Perlemuter plays the Etudes with the grace accorded to old friends."



Perlemuter’s Chopin represents by far the most extensive part of his Nimbus discography. It’s also the repertoire by which, one assumes, posterity will best remember him, though my own view is that his Ravel recordings are in a way more candid evidence of his musicianship, and were, moreover, made earlier so better preserve his virtuosic and digitally elevated musicianship at its late peak. There are individual Chopin discs, and a 6 CD boxed set which consolidates all his recordings for the company. His Etudes vary in tempo decisions. The first two of the Op.10 set are quite deliberate whereas the third, in E, is up to tempo, its contrary motion octaves dispatched with authority. There is an unhurried nobility about the fifth, though No.7 can seem somewhat impersonal. The Op.25 set sports a finely poetic A flat, and a direct, affecting (within his limits) C sharp minor. There’s marvellous pointing and a sense of colour in the – again – deliberately phrased G flat.

Jonathan Woolf,