Vassily Primakov

Chopin: 3 Sonatas; 4 Ballades; 4 Scherzos

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Vassily Primakov's two-disc set of Frédéric Chopin's keyboard masterpieces offers an emotionally balanced program that lets the music unfold and reveal itself naturally through contrasts of character, rather than through a strictly categorical plan. Arranging the 3 Sonatas, the 4 Ballades, and the 4 Scherzos in a loosely interlocking scheme, rather than in three discrete sets, permits the listener to absorb the works' changing moods and expressions as they flow by, without getting hung up on the work type. The first disc is framed by the melancholy but light Sonata No. 1 and the much weightier Sonata No. 2 (famous for the Marche funèbre), placed on either side of the turbulent Scherzo No. 1 and the mercurial Scherzo No. 2, with the dreamy Ballade No. 1 in G minor serving as an interlude between them. While that suggests a certain symmetry of form, the second disc is seemingly more random in design, with the remaining Ballades No. 2, No. 3, and No. 4 mixed with the Scherzos No. 3 and No. 4, alternating between gentle themes and stormy gestures, building to a summation in the Sonata No. 3, which unifies both lyrical and dramatic impulses in what is perhaps Chopin's most expressively integrated sonata. Primakov's subtle handling of mood shifts and controlled playing are shown to best advantage in this album, and the wide range of dynamics and varied tone colors are reproduced with fidelity in a spacious acoustic that gives the music natural resonance.

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