Recording: THE ART OF CHOPIN
Nearly a century and a half after his death, the music of Chopin continues to fascinate audiences and critics alike. His ballades, scherzos, etudes, mazurkas, nocturnes, preludes and waltzes remain staples of the repertoire “par excellence”.
That Alan Hobbins has again chosen an all-Chopin programme for his latest CD Album – The Art of Chopin – confirms his continuing passion for the Polish poet of the piano. Alan’s affinity with the composer clues us into his own personal music psyche manifesting itself in a love for the sometimes delicate, sometimes robust musical expression of Chopin requiring as it does finely tuned technique to make extraordinarily difficult passages sound as if they were gossamer-floating effortlessly.
In this recital Alan offers representative and familiar examples from Chopin’s output, ranging from his first Impromptu to the last extended work, the Polonaise-Fantaisie. Also included are three scherzos and two of the most celebrated nocturnes.
The Art of Chopin album will be released at a livestream recital on February 25, 2022.
The recording is self-produced under the Maestro Music label.
Alan Hobbins, pianist | Maestro Music Co. 2022
Produced by Alan Hobbins
Recorded at Glenn Gould Studio, CBC
Toronto Maestro Music Studio
Recording Engineer/Mastering: Pouya Hamidi
CD Production: Yokai Music Manufacturing
Album Photos of Alan Hobbins: Bo Huang
Steinway Concert Grand Piano
TO PURCHASE CD Contact Mr. Hobbins
Tracks & Samples:
1. Scherzo No. 3 in C-sharp minor, Op. 39
2. Scherzo No. 4 in E major, Op. 54
3. Nocturne in D-flat major, Op. 27, No. 2
4. Impromptu in A-flat major, Op. 29
5. Impromptu in G-flat major, Op. 51
6. Scherzo No 2 in B-flat minor, Op. 31
7. Nocturne in C minor, Op. 48, No. 1
8. Polonaise-Fantaisie Op. 61
Despite the two centuries which have intervened since Chopin’s lifetime (1810-49) his music continues to fascinate. Although he may have ceded some space on the concert solo piano platform to composers such as Liszt, Scriabin, Rachmaninov, Prokofiev, Debussy, Ravel, and a plethora of 20th and 21st century European and North and South Americans, his music remains ubiquitous (even serving as the occasional background while we wait seemingly interminably on the telephone and are assured repeatedly that “your call is important to us”). In these early decades of our present century, we have been the fortunate recipients not only of Alan Walker’s monumental “Fryderyk Chopin: a life and times” published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2018) but also of Alan Hobbins’ latest piano CD, “The Art of Chopin” which includes three of Chopin’s four Scherzos, two of his four Impromptus, the Polonaise-Fantaisie and two Nocturnes.
Manifold considerations confront the pianist preparing to share Chopin’s art with the wider community, not the least of which is that today’s Steinway vastly differs from the Pleyel piano of Chopin’s era. Austrian born Ignaz Pleyel (1757-1831) founded a piano factory in Paris in 1807 and was a prolific composer of symphonies, string quartets, flute quartets, concertos and piano music. The Pleyel piano much favored by Chopin had a lighter action, softer hammers and a narrower dynamic range than the Steinways of today. As a pianist Chopin was renowned for his legato and pianissimo playing, his pedaling finesse and his astonishing variety of tone colors.
Devotees of Chopin have long been aware that his scherzi do not contain the rustic humor and jocular moments sometimes found in the second or third movements of Haydn and Beethoven sonatas, symphonies and chamber music. Chopin’s Scherzo in C-sharp minor (1839) leads off this CD and is followed by scherzi in E major (1842) and B-flat minor (1837); in the latter the pianist must decide whether to respect the limitations of Chopin’s 78 note Pleyel or whether to adjust a Trio section figuration to what is possible on today’s concert grand. The third scherzo begins with an extended section which defies the listener’s attempts to establish either a tonal centre or an underlying pulse. The chorale-like middle section is one of Chopin’s most memorable, with its rapid descending passages perhaps demonstrating his need for a piano on which to compose. The fourth scherzo is the only one in a major key and like the other three discards the minuet and trio tradition typically found in earlier composers.
The nocturne was first used as a title for short pieces by the Irish composer and pianist John Field (1782-1837) and is usually comprised of an expressive right-hand melody accompanied by broken left hand chords. Nocturnes on occasion present both pedaling and fingering challenges; neither are evident in the renditions heard here. Notable 19th century impromptus – short instrumental pieces – were composed not only by Chopin but also by Schubert (1797-1828) and Schumann (1810-1856).
The rather lengthy, chromatic and challenging Polonaise-Fantaisie in A-flat major (1845-46) combines two separate genres: the Fantaisie and the Polish Polonaise. The work undergoes several key changes and at times incorporates the typical Polonaise rhythm (usually either in the left hand or in a middle voice). The slower chorale section is not untypical Chopin. This late Chopin composition is described by Alan Walker as “one of the great soundscapes of piano music” and brings to a resounding close Alan Hobbins’ latest CD.
Jack Behrens PhD