Jan Krzysztof Broja / Andrzej Bauer / Jakub Jakowicz

Chopin: Chamber Music

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This album compiles Frédéric Chopin's entire output of chamber music, making up three early works plus the Sonata in G minor for cello and piano, Op. 65, of 1846 and 1847, a work of Chopin's late life that announced new directions he might have pursued in his music. The album is part of a fine new series from the Fryderyk Chopin Institute in Poland. Releases in the series use historical instruments but aren't fussy about authentic performance practice; the chief historical feature here is an 1849 Erard piano. It's not drastically different in sound from a later grand, but it's both quieter overall and sharper in its attacks; the Largo of the G minor Cello Sonata has a nice spoken quality, and the partnership among the three instruments is perfectly balanced. But the major attraction here is not the instrumentation but the performances, which do much to illuminate these rather odd corners of Chopin's output. The Trio in G minor for piano, violin, and cello shows Chopin in a unique mood: under the spell of Beethoven, whose music he listened to avidly. The trio of pianist Jan Krzysztof Broja (known to Naxos-label fans for his fine Szymanowski concerto performances), cellist Andrzej Bauer, and violinist Jakub Jakowicz brings out the Beethovenian influence with a tumultuous, broad performance that captures the reactions a 19 year old would have had on encountering Beethoven's chamber music. The cello sonata is something else again. Its large Allegro moderato opening movement is unique in Chopin's oeuvre, which is mostly focused on concision, and used broad gestures in support of monumental themes. Annotator Bohdan Pociej (whose notes are given in Polish and English) makes the excellent suggestion that the young Brahms might have encountered this work, which is packed full of passionate melodies and gestures that in turn are wedged into an approximation of sonata form. Broja and Bauer have a good sense of the long line and do much to unravel the knotty quality that led Chopin to repeatedly return to the work. The Introduction and Polonaise, Op. 3, and Grand Duo Concertante on Themes from Meyerbeer's "Robert le Diable" are showpiece works of a different character entirely, and here they serve as entr'actes between the two more serious pieces. Complete recordings of Chopin's chamber music are not common, and this one can be recommended without hesitation.

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