In the present revisionist age, the central works of pianistic Romanticism have mostly so far escaped scrutiny and come to concert halls immersed in performance traditions that have come straight down from the nineteenth century. That can't last forever, and revisionist Chopin is now available from Finnish pianist Anne Kauppi. She traces the confused edition history of the etudes in her booklet (in Finnish and English), pointing out that many details of the common ways Chopin's etudes, especially, are played, have come down to us from Chopin's students, who, not surprisingly, took conflicting advice away from their teachers. Nonetheless, Kauppi confidently writes of "ridiculous" metronome markings, "disputable" dynamic markings, and even an "insanely quick" tempo traditionally required in the Etude in E flat minor, Op. 10/6. Listeners who bear in mind that Kauppi's interpretations are unusual will find an intriguing set of the 27 etudes (the Bachian set of 24, Opp. 10 and 25, plus three somewhat freer posthumous works). It's the tempi that are most unusual. Compared with Maurizio Pollini's commonly heard recording of Op. 10 and Op. 25 from 1990, Kauppi is slower in each and every case, and sometimes a lot slower. The E minor Etude from Op. 25 (track 17) clocks in at 4 minutes and 17 seconds in Kauppi's recording, as compared with a mere 2:54 for Pollini (who is admittedly brisk here). The overall effect is to present what might be called an exploded view of the etudes, examining their internal counterpoint (which Kauppi characterizes as "linear") and motivic relationships. Kauppi backs up this general orientation with clear articulation and precise use of tempo rubato to emphasize small details. One gets out of her readings something of the close-up intellectual atmosphere in which Chopin presented most of his music, in front of small groups, and the sound engineering, which really gets inside the piano, emphasizes this feeling. A stimulating Chopin disc for those with a few common performances in their heads, and well worth sampling on the various Internet sites that sell it by the track: that way you can stack Kauppi's readings up against others and evaluate the strength of her unusual claims.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Etudes (12) for piano, Op. 10, CT. 14-25|
|Etudes (12) for piano, Op. 25, CT. 26-37|